Monday, July 22

Asean leaders agree to adopt haze monitoring system

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BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: Southeast Asian leaders gathered here for their bi-annual summits have adopted a recommendation by the Asean environment ministers for a transboundary haze monitoring system.

Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said in a statement that they also welcomed Indonesia’s commitment to ratify a regional haze agreement.

“We look forward to Indonesia’s ratification of the agreement at the earliest time,” said the sultan, who is chairing the 23rd Asean Summit and related summits.

The leaders said they took note of the outcome of the trilateral meeting on transboundary haze between the foreign ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore at the Asean Foreign Ministers’ Retreat in Hua Hin, Thailand, last August.

On the sidelines of the 23rd Asean Summit here, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had a brief discussion yesterday on the haze with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

According to officials, the haze monitoring system that will include digitised land-use maps and concession maps of fire-prone areas that cause transboundary haze will be shared on a government-to-government basis.

In July, Indonesia announced it would ratify the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution by the end of this year or early next year.

Countries affected by the haze had been pressuring Indonesia to ratify the agreement after thick smog, resulting from forest fires in Sumatra and Riau, engulfed parts of Malaysia and Singapore.In the latest occurrence in June, Malaysia had to declare a state of emergency in Muar and Ledang, with many schools forced to close due to the thick smog and the Air Pollution Index reaching the hazardous level.

Indonesia is the only Asean country which has yet to ratify the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution which came into force in 2003 — despite most of the forest and peat soil fires originating from Indonesia.

The agreement was established in 2002 involving Asean nations to reduce haze pollution, whereby it recognises that transboundary haze pollution resulting from land or forest fires should be mitigated through concerted national efforts and international cooperation.It was established due to haze that hit Southeast Asia in the late 1990s, following land clearing via open burning on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. — Bernama