Crowdsourcing ‘nodders’ help spot illegal fires in Indonesia

Jakarta: This time Jimmy Liew has a personal reason for being part of an invisible global army of geo-geeks dedicated to … well, saving the world.

During work hours Mr Liew is a freelance project manager. In his own time, he spends countless hours poring over satellite maps, searching for wrongdoers.

From his home in Singapore, Mr Liew has spotted illegal fishing weirs wreaking havoc on the native fish population in the Persian Gulf and identified damaged homes and roads after the 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Nepal.

But it is his most recent campaign that is particularly close to his heart – documenting the location of illegal fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan that cause the choking haze in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia every year.

The haze is caused by fires, which are often lit to clear land for palm oil and acacia plantations.

Mr Liew is a “nodder”, as they call themselves, a volunteer who searches satellite imagery on crowdsourcing website Tomnod and tags information that may be of use in disaster rescue efforts or to prosecute offenders.

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