Asian MPs to Discuss Forest Fires

Asian MPs to Discuss Forest Fires

20 June 2007

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Indonesia — Environment ministers from five Asian nations are meetingin the Indonesian province of Jambi to assess progress in preventing the annualforest fires.

Thick haze caused by the fires often spreads across neighbouring countries,causing disruption and health problems. Indonesia is coming under increasingpressure to tackle it. The government has said it will reduce the incidence offires by 50% this year, and has launched a new national action plan to achievethis aim.

Much of the talk at this week’s Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean)meeting is about prevention. The rainy season is still keeping the soil moist inmany of the most vulnerable provinces, and Indonesia is being encouraged to putsystems in place before the fires have had a chance to spread.

A senior government official said $45m had been made available to buy badlyneeded helicopters and fire-fighting equipment. He said a series of rewards wasbeing set up for local farmers who did not use fires to clear land.

But environmentalists say much of the problem lies in monitoring and enforcingthe situation on the ground. They warn that many of the worst affected areashave only a skeleton staff and lack the most basic equipment.

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