ASEAN — Sub-regional efforts to manage the problems caused by trans-boundary haze pollution have been acknowledged as inadequate by Asean environment ministers.
This was the main point that came across in the one-day Asean sub-regional Ministerial Meeting on Transboundary Haze Pollution here yesterday.
Among the other hot issues raised was Indonesia not ratifying the Asean trans-boundary haze agreement.
On haze frontline: Asean ministers in Pekanbaru, Indonesia, yesterday (from left) Penin Abdullah (Brunei), Azmi, Kaban, Dr Rahmat, Riau Governor H.M. Rosli Zainal, Yaacob and Api Chai Charajarerupun (Thailand).
Indonesian laws have to be amended by Parliament before the agreement can be ratified, so it is a matter of time, said Indonesias Environment Minister Dr Rahmat Witoelar.
He read out to some 100 journalists a joint press statement which basically emphasised that Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia were committed to helping each other to better manage the haze problem.
The meeting also discussed issues of updating regional transboundary haze data, weather forecasts, and progress updates by Indonesia on its measures adopted to prevent and mitigate land and forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan.
However, what pressmen were most interested in was the haze pollution control fund.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid said nothing could move forward unless Indonesia ratified the agreement.
Details of the fund can only be worked out once the agreement is signed, he said.
Some of the measures that the ministers decided to undertake included the setting up of a ministerial steering committee to oversee the implementation of plans to tackle haze.
Dr Rahmat added that the meeting also agreed that international expertise be sought to develop a good plan.
A regional workshop is to be held in Indonesia early next month to look into these measures, he said.
The workshop outcome will be submitted to the Asean Ministerial Ministers of Environment summit in Cebu next month.
Indonesian journalists also asked if there would be any guarantee that Malaysia and Singapore would stop complaining about the annual haze.
To this, Singapores Environment and Water Resources Minister Yaacob Ibrahim said that as long as a member country was not doing enough, any country had the right to complain.
To a question on Malaysian companies conducting open burning and therefore contributing to the haze, Azmi said he wanted the Indonesian government to prosecute those who were guilty.
Indonesias Forestry Minister M.S. Kaban said if all the hotspots in Indonesia were put together, there would be about 25,000-30,000ha of burnt land.