Indonesia assures Asean neighbours there will be no haze problems this year

KUALA LUMPUR: Indonesia yesterday assured its Asean neighbours that there will be no transboundary haze problems plaguing the region’’s skyline this year.

Indonesian Environment and Forestry Ministry advisor Arief Yuwono said the prediction was based on last year’s record following stringent measures successfully implemented to curb forest fires and control smoke haze pollution in the republic.

“In 2017, we already make observation and comparison to 2016.

“With a weaker El Nino and the system already activated on the ground, we anticipate that we can repeat that (2016), which saw almost zero recurrence of haze,” he said when met after attending the 19th Technical Working Group & Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution, held here.

The two-day high level meeting was chaired by Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

Besides Wan Junaidi and Arief, their counterparts from Brunei, Singapore and Thailand also attended the meeting.

Following a bad bout of haze pollution in 2015, Indonesia last year began to take serious steps to address the annual environmental problem, which yielded positive outcome with Singapore reporting one day of haze only while Malaysia, three days.

Arief said the Indonesian government had since early this year began to put in place measures to prevent and mitigate smoke haze pollutions, including a better organised fire fighter team and had activated integrated patrols in areas prone to forest fires.

He said the Indonesian government got private companies to be proactively involved in curbing forest fires and haze.

“Forest fire is a national priority and it is supervised by our president (Joko Widodo). In early 2017, the president gave us instructions related to forest fire from the policy maker to the ground level.

“Besides that, we also have strong commitment to  law enforcement, with some companies being investigated (for causing haze pollutions),” he said.

Earlier, in the news conference after chairing the meeting, Wan Junaidi said the Indonesian minister had given his assurance on the issue in the meeting.

He said Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Thailand also reaffirmed their readiness to provide assistance if requested and work with Indonesia on emergency response when necessary.

The five Asean countries also reaffirmed their commitment to work towards a Haze Free Asean by 2020, he added. — Bernama

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