Sunday, July 14, 2013

5 nations meet on haze

A soldier trying to put out a fire in an oil palm plantation in Paman Jaya, Indonesia.

They seek end to annual problem

KUALA LUMPUR: ENVIRONMENT ministers and officials from Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand will gather here today to push for a solution to the haze problem that has plagued the region for more than a decade.

The 15th meeting of the sub-regional ministerial steering committee (MSC) on Transboundary Haze Pollution, scheduled for August, was brought forward this month after haze from forest fires in Sumatra and Riau blanketed parts of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore recently.

The severity of the latest incident, which forced Malaysia to close down schools and declare a state of emergency in Muar and Ledang, Johor, has brought a renewed urgency for the countries involved to end the problem once and for all.

Central to these discussions will be Indonesia's willingness to ratify the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, which recognises haze resulting from land or forest fires as a regional issue to be dealt with through concerted national efforts and international cooperation.

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Parties to the agreement are required to cooperate in developing and implementing measures to prevent, monitor and mitigate transboundary haze pollution by controlling sources of land or forest fires, the development of monitoring, assessment and early warning systems, the exchange of information and technology, and the provision of mutual assistance.

Indonesia remains the only holdout to the agreement, despite most of the peat soil and forest fires originating from its shores.

Malaysia and Singapore have said that they would continue to put pressure on Indonesia to sign the treaty, which came into force in 2003.

Indonesia, in turn, has been showing signs that it is prepared to comply.

Its Environment Minister, Dr Balthasar Kambuaya, said recently that the documents for ratification were being reviewed at the ministerial level and were expected to pass through the Indonesian Parliament by next year.

Meanwhile, Malaysia's Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel last week said the ministerial meeting, which convenes on Wednesday, should identify what had been achieved and to look at what the immediate needs were.

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