KUCHING: A Forest Fires Research andInformation Centre will be established soon as part of efforts to curb the hazeproblem in the region. The centre, initiated by the Commonwealth ScienceCouncil, will cost about RM1.9mil. It would be located at the Forest ResearchInstitute of Malaysia. Datuk Dr Mohinder Singh, the councils adviser said:We hope to activate the centre immediately. A five-man working group has beenset up to source financial support from the Asean Development Bank for theproject. The haze problem experienced by Malaysia and countries in the region hasescalated over the last few years, with the worst record in 1997 when Sarawakrecorded hazardous API index of above 700. The centre, Dr Mohinder Singh said,was a follow-up initiative from the Asean meeting held in Brunei last year. Theworking group was formed yesterday at the conclusion of a three-day RegionalConference on Natural Resources and Environmental Management here. Science,Technology and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Law Hieng Ding closed theconference, attended by 200 participants. Law lauded the setting up of theForest Fires Information and Research Centre. There is no doubt that we are concerned with the effects of forest fires aswe have seen in the past few years the hazards to health and environment causedby such fires, he said. He said his ministry fully supported the initiative,as it would have far-reaching benefits not only to Malaysia but also the wholeregion. Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud on Thursday also commended thesetting up of the centre, saying it would enhance regional efforts to tackle thehaze problem. Managing natural re sources is not a problem” for Sarawak. There is abigger problem of haze that we cannot tackle on our own. I am happy to notethat the Commonwealth Science Council has initiated the setting up of ForestFires Research and Information Centre, he said.