Indonesia should join regional action to reduce haze from fires

WWF Indonesia, December 16, 2003

 As environment ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations(ASEAN) meet today in Myanmar, WWF-Indonesia urges the Indonesian government to immediately ratify the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary HazePollution, high on the agenda of the meeting.
The ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, which entered into force on 25 November this year, is the first regional arrangement in theworld that requires a group of states to work together on transboundary haze pollution resulting from land and forest fires. It contains provisionson monitoring, assessment and prevention, technical cooperation and scientific research, mechanisms for coordination, lines of communication,and simplified customs and immigration procedures for disaster response.
Six regional governments — Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, and Viet Nam — have ratified the agreement. However, thegovernment of Indonesia regrettably has yet to do so. As the major source of massive forest and land fires in ASEAN, Indonesia should take a leadingrole in the implementation of this strategic agreement.
Dr Mubariq Ahmad, Executive Director of WWF-Indonesia, calls upon the Indonesian government to ratify the agreement. “This is a good opportunityfor the Indonesian government to show goodwill by ratifying the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution. The government should follow upwith significant actions such as forest fire prevention and law enforcement programmes,” he said. For the last 20 years, fire and haze have become ayearly catastrophic event in Indonesia. In 1997–1998, fires cost the country some US$3 billion. Neighboring countries in Southeast Asian regionalso suffered from the disaster, including air traffic disturbances and health problems.

WWF also urges the government, the private sector, and other stakeholders to take action together to prevent future problems. Action includes:
* Stopping all development of peatlands, and instead protecting and carefully managing them. In 1997–1998, approximately 80 per cent ofthe haze was caused by fires in peatlands.
* The private sector exerting self-restraint and adopting best practices, including non-fire land clearing and protection of the mostbiodiverse areas within their concession.
* The creation of a single agency to oversee and coordinate fire management, laws, and regulations, which must be harmonized,clarified, and, most importantly, enforced.
* Empowerment of local communities by the government and the private sector to sustainably manage fire and land. 

For more information:

Fitrian Ardiansyah
Tel: +62 21 5761070, ext. 502
Email: fardiansyah@wwf.or.id

Sapto H. Sakti
Tel: +62 21 5761070, ext. 205
Email: ssakti@wwf.or.id


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