KUALA LUMPUR — The regional haze problem will only end when the Indonesian Government ratifies the Asean Transboundary Haze Agreement.
Once Indonesia ratified the treaty, Environmental Protection Society Malaysia adviser, Gurmit Singh, said Asean countries could implement the provisions under the agreement in that country.
The provisions include the control and prevention of forest fires, one of the main causes of the haze, he said yesterday.
Gurmit was commenting on a report in a local daily which said haze was expected to hit Malaysia in the next two months, due to forest fires in Indonesia.
According to the report, fires were rapidly spreading through 20,000ha of forest in Riau, Sumatra, resulting in several districts in the province being shrouded in thick smoke over the past two weeks.
In the report, Malaysian Meteorological Department principal assistant director Wong Teck Kiong was quoted as saying the haze would almost definitely be back, if the Riau fires continued to burn throughout the coming inter-monsoon period and into the South-West monsoon season.
Gurmit said: It takes political will, enforcement and education to prevent the haze from recurring.
Indonesia can show its seriousness by ratifying the treaty to enable enforcement to be carried out, he said.
The Asean Transboundary Haze Agreement was signed by Asean Environment Ministers in June 2002, in Kuala Lumpur.
However, it must be ratified by six of the 10 member countries before it can be enforced.
On Nov 25, 2003, the treaty came into force, about two months after Thailand became the sixth country to ratify it.
Indonesia, Cambodia and the Philippines are the only countries which have yet to ratify the treaty.
The agreement, among others, obligates member countries to co-operate in developing and implementing measures to prevent, monitor, and mitigate trans- boundary haze pollution, by controlling sources of land and forest fires.
Gurmit said Malaysia should also play its part in preventing open burning with the cooperation of all parties.
The Government must educate the public about the cause and effect of open burning, he said.
Sending firefighters to Indonesia to help put out the forest fires is only a short-term measure and would prove fruitless in the long term.
The main focus should be the overall prevention of the fires, added Gurmit.