Finally, a clear answer to haze

Finally, a clearanswer to haze

5 March 2007

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Souteast Asia– After countless meetings and talks overthe past 11 years, Asean has finally come up with the most tangible plan so farto fight the region’s annual haze problem. 

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid told TheStar that Singapore and Malaysia had offered their help to Indonesia toexecute a “hands-on” approach in problematic provinces. 

He said Indonesia had asked Malaysia to “take care” of Riau province if acapacity-building model that Singapore was currently trying out in the Jambiprovince proved successful. 

“Since the Asean meeting in Cebu in November last year, Singapore has beenpro-active by going down to Jambi province to look into all aspects ofpreventing fires there,” he said. 

“Malaysian plantation companies are also helping Singapore with theirexpertise as they know how to clear land without burning,” he said. 

Azmi said this meant finding alternative means instead of burning trees andto teach the locals how to manage different types of land. 

“It means looking at the geographic, economic and land use profiles andwhere plantations and the population are located. They will teach the localswhat is needed and where it is needed. 

“For example, when new areas are opened up, there are ways to do it withoutburning and where land is to be redeveloped, trees should be cut instead ofburned.” 

Azmi said Singapore’s capacity-building model was currently being studiedby a group of experts from Malaysia with a view for Asean countries affected bythe haze to follow. 

“Finally, all the talking has ended and the real work is being carriedout,” he said, adding that the latest round of decisions were reached at the12th Asean Ministerial Meeting on Haze held last week in Bandar Seri Begawan,Brunei. 

Apart from this, Azmi added that the meeting had set a target of US$500,000(RM1.75mil) for a newly launched fund to control trans-boundary haze. 

Azmi stressed that contributing to this fund was purely voluntary and thatthere was no time limit, with Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia eachcontributing US$50,000 (RM175,000) to kick off the fund. 

“The money will be managed by the Asean secretariat to fund studies or tosource for experts and not for physical development,” he said, adding thatIndonesia had already set aside US$60mil (RM210mil) for various physicalinitiatives including canal damming in peat-land areas.

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