Malaysia, Indonesia join forces to dampen haze problem

Malaysia, Indonesia join forces to dampen haze problem

21 July 2006

published by Antara News 

Malaysia and Indonesia have agreed to join forces to stamp out fires in oil
palm plantations which are contributing to the region’s annual haze
problem, a Malaysian minister said Thursday.

Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Peter Chin said plantations
would have to fall in line with both countries’ laws which ban open
burning, partly blamed for the latest haze choking parts of Indonesia,
Malaysia and Thailand. “Our Malaysian companies must strictly comply with
Indonesian laws on open burning,” Chin told reporters after returning from
a July 18 meeting with his counterpart in Indonesia.

The two countries had agreed to “strictly implement the policies of banning
open burning in both countries in the effort to contain the fire and the
haze occurrence,” AFP reported quoting a ministry statement.

Most of the fires are in Indonesia but Malaysian companies are venturing
into their Southeast Asian neighbour, with more than 20 companies currently
involved in oil palm planting there. Last year, haze from fires on
Indonesia’s Sumatra island hit Kuala Lumpur and towns in Malaysia’s north
and its west coast, as well as parts of Thailand. Malaysian firms operating
in Sumatra were accused of contributing to the haze by conducting open

Chin said the bilateral effort would see monitoring and enforcement in both
countries, and information sharing which would lead to prosecutions. Under
Malaysian laws, plantations caught burning land to make way for oil palm
crops can be stripped of their operating licenses and face hefty fines.

Indonesia introduced a similar law in 2004 which imposes a maximum 10-year
jail term and 10 billion rupiah (1.09 million dollars) in fines on
plantations that defy the regulation. However, Chin said that Malaysian
companies were not entirely responsible for burning on plantation land in
Indonesia, and levelled blame on Indonesians living on the land.

“The land that is supposed to belong to their plantation companies are
actually inhabited by some of the local people. So there is a land dispute
of sorts,” he said.

Haze caused by burning in Indonesia and some parts of Malaysia to make way
for crops is an annual problem that afflicts countries in the region
including Singapore and Thailand. (*)

Other related news : Open burning: Plantations risk losing trading licences


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