Across the lowlands of southern New Guinea, numerous fires (marked in red) were burning on October 11, 2004, when this image was captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer modis.gsfc.nasa.gov (MODIS) on NASA's aqua.nasa.gov Aqua satellite. The island is occupied by two different nations: the western (left) half by the Indonesian territory of Irian Jaya and the eastern (right) half by Papua New Guinea. The image is roughly centered on the boundary between the two, and fires are burning across both countries.
Both countries are struggling to control illegal logging. The www.fao.org/forestry/foris/webview/forestry2/index.jsp?siteId=5081&sitetreeId=18927&langId=1&geoId=0 Website of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports that some estimates suggest that 40 to 60 percent of the industrial roundwood in Indonesia is not legally harvested. In Papua New Guinea, logging continues, despite an official ban on logging exports, according to www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2797.htm information from the U.S. State Department. Whether these particular fires are related to illegal logging is unknown, but often fire is used by timber operators and tree plantation owners to degrade undisturbed rainforest in the hopes of gaining concessions to the land.
NASA image created by Jesse Allen, Earth Observatory, using data obtained from the rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/ MODIS Rapid Response team.