PENANG — South Korea and Japan Friday offered help for the affected Asean countries to tackle the seasonal haze they suffer from as a result of peatland fires in Indonesia.
The Asean countries could learn from the South Korean experience of having tackled the transboundary air pollution caused by sandstorms from Mongolia and China, said Dr Lee Minho, Director of the International Affairs Division of the South Korean Ministry of Environment.
Asean could emulate Japan in promoting partnership in the forestry sector as well as forest management to prevent fires, said Naohisa Okuda, Senior Policy Co-ordinator of the Global Environment Bureau in Japan’s Ministry of Environment.
Both Dr Lee and Okuda are here to attend the one-day meeting of the Second Asean+3 Senior Officials Meeting on the Environment, being held on the heels of the two-day meeting of the Asean Senior Officials on the Environment (ASOEN) which ended yesterday.
They were approached during a break in the meeting for their comments on last week’s haze that enveloped parts of Malaysia and southern Thailand, caused by fires in northern Sumatra and Riau in Indonesia, which led to the declaration of a haze emergency in Port Klang and Kuala Selangor.
Dr Lee said that it took South Korea three years of discussions to come up with ways to resolve the sandstorm air pollution and to avert similar situations in the future.
He said the problem was solved through close co-operation and a series of activities organised among the affected countries.
“We could assist Asean countries to identify the priorities to combat this (haze) problem. Maybe, a similar approach can be applied in Asean … maybe they could get some lessons from our experience,” he added.
Okuda said he would compile the information on the recent haze in Asean for his government to determine the form of assistance for Asean to address the problem.
“I think Japan could offer assistance to Asean, including expertise and manpower. I think we are ready but I am not sure how exactly our government would assist in this issue,” he added.
Fang Li, Director of the Regional Environment Co-operation Division of the State Environmental Protection Administration of China, said environmental education and protection were vital for sustainable development.
China is also a member of the Asean+3.
In KUCHING, Sarawak Urban Development and Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh said today the haze would not have a long-term impact on the state’s tourism sector.
He said tourist arrivals might drop in the next one of two months due to a concern over health but the ministry was informing potential visitors that the situation was not as bad as it was perceived to be.