Peatlands are the world’s largest carbon sinks, but they are being cleared, drained and burned at an alarming rate. Burning peatlands is the cheapest way for companies and smallholder farmers to clear land for oil palm, timber plantations or agriculture. But once they are lit, the fires are extremely difficult to extinguish.
In Indonesia, forest, land and peat fires are overwhelmingly driven by economic forces, as fires are the most cost-effective means of land clearing. Illegal land transactions assist in speeding such processes, with fires an important tool in clearing land to prepare areas for plantation crops as mechanized land clearing exists, but with prohibitive costs.