Indonesia forest fires cost 5.2 billion USD in economic losses: WB hinh anh 1Forest fire in Kampar, Indonesia (Photo: AFP/VNA)

Jakarta (VNA) -
The total damage and economic losses from forest fires in Indonesia this year has amounted to at least 5.2 billion USD, equal to 0.5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, the World Bank said in a report on December 11.

The estimate was based on its assessment in eight affected provinces from June to October 2019, though analysts at the multinational bank said fires had continued to rage through to November.

The forest and land fires, as well as the resulting haze, led to significant negative economic impact, estimated at 157 million USD in direct damage to assets and 5 billion in losses from affected economic activities, the WB wrote in the report.

Over 900,000 people reported respiratory illnesses, 12 national airports halted operations, and hundreds of schools in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore had to temporarily close due to the fires.

More than 942,000 hectares of forests and lands were burned this year, the biggest since devastating fires in 2015 when Indonesia saw 2.6 million hectares burned, according to official figures.

Officials said the spike was due to El Nino weather patterns lengthening the dry season.

The WB also estimated a 0.09 and 0.05 percentage point reduction in Indonesia's economic growth in 2019 and 2020, respectively, due to the fires. Its growth forecast for Indonesia is 5 percent for 2019 and 5.1 percent for 2020.

The blazes were manmade and have become a chronic problem annually since 1997 because fire is considered the cheapest method to prepare land for cultivation, the bank said.

Because about 44 percent of the areas burned in 2019 were in peatlands, carbon emissions from Indonesia's fires were estimated to be almost double those from the fires in the Brazilian Amazon this year.

The European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecast estimated a total of 720 megatonnes of CO2 emissions came from Indonesian forest fires in January-November this year.

Longer-term effects of repeated fires were not included in this estimate, the WB said. Repeated haze exposure would reduce health and education quality and damage the global image of palm oil - an important commodity for Indonesia./.