Southeast Asia — Asean ministersresponsible for the environment recently met in Brunei Darussalam to discussissues related to land and forest fires and transboundary haze pollution. Themeet was held from February 28 to March 1.
The ministers reviewed regional cooperation on transboundary haze pollution,exchanged views on actions taken at the national level and resolved to furtherstrengthen national and regional cooperation.
Additionally, they expressed concern that unusual weather patternsexperienced lately may bring about adverse weather conditions, and predictionsby the ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre point to a drier weathercondition during the middle and later part of this year.
They have thus resolved to undertake concrete actions, particularly onpreventive and mitigation efforts to be better prepared in the event of adverseweather conditions.
In this connection, the ministers at the ‘Second Meeting of the Sub RegionalMinisterial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution’ expressedsatisfaction over the urgency shown and action-oriented approach by membercountries to address land and forest fires and transboundary haze pollution.
In particular, the ministers commended the substantive efforts taken byIndonesia over the last few months to draw up a comprehensive plan of action todeal with land and forest fires, which includes actions at the national leveland local level.
The ministers also expressed satisfaction at the highest-level support shownnationally, and the significant progress made in implementing the plan of action.
This include, among others, the following:
– The 35 districts identified as fire prone are currently developing theirrespective action plans, in line with Indonesia’s Plan of Action.
– The relevant national agencies – namely Ministry of Environment, Ministryof Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture, BAKORNAS PB (National Coordinating Boardfor Disaster Management), BMG (Meteorology and Geophysics Agency) and LAPAN(National Institute of Aeronautics and Space) – have allocated a budget tosupport the implementation of Indonesia’s Plan of Action and identified expertsfor the Plan of Action and the Panel of Asean experts.
– The government of Singapore is making good progress in assisting theProvincial Government of Jambi to develop a Master Plan for Muaro Jambi Regency.
– A monitoring and law enforcement system has been put in place in RiauProvince, which has proved to be effective in reducing the number of hotspots inFebruary 2007.
– The president of Indonesia is scheduled to meet with officials of thefire-prone districts to anticipate the upcoming dry season.
– Stringent law enforcement is being implemented in the fire-prone areas as adeterrent for both individuals and plantation companies, while task forces havebeen set up in Kalimantan (based in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan) and in Sumatra(based in Pekanbaru, Riau) to closely monitor the fire and haze situation andgive reports directly to the minister and subsequently to the president.
The ministers also noted that Indonesia has set a target to reduce the numberof hotspots by 50 per cent this year in forested areas. In addition, Indonesiahas mobilised about 700 billion Rupiah to implement its Plan of Actionespecially for prevention and suppression.
The ministers – apart from undertaking national level actions to address landand forest fires within their territory – have demonstrated full commitment toassist Indonesia in the implementation of its Plan of Action.
Additionally, Singapore is working with the Ministry of Environment ofIndonesia and the Provincial Government of Jambi to develop and implement aMaster Plan for the Muaro Jambi Regency.
The meeting recognised this innovative approach of working at the local andcommunity level and agreed that other member countries may follow the approachof Singapore.