Indonesia / ASEAN–– Ministers and vice ministers from five of the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Wednesday agreed to form a technical task force to develop a ground and forest fire monitoring platform at the ministerial steering committee level.
The agreement was reached during the 14th Meeting of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) on Transboundary Haze Pollution held in Bali on Wednesday, an Asean statement said.
The Ministers agreed to the proposal for the formation of an MSC Technical Task Force to develop a fire monitoring platform, the statement said.
The meeting was attended by environment ministers from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, and the vice-minister of natural resources and environment from Thailand.
The meeting noted that the onset of the traditional rainy season around late November or early December will in all likelihood put an end to, or greatly reduce, hot spot activity.
Hot spots are areas of high temperatures shown through satellite imaging, that have increased potential to ignite into ground and forest fires.
The MSC countries agreed to maintain vigilance and to continue the subregions strong commitment and steady progress toward tackling land and forest fires, and minimizing the spread of transboundary smoke haze, the statement said.
The ministers also agreed to explore the sharing of digital concession maps, as they acknowledged that greater transparency is required to make plantation companies and land owners responsible for the haze.
The owners need to be held accountable and work to employ the best management practices in land clearing activities, the statement said.
They also agreed to undertake more stringent measures to prevent such problems, while instituting enforcement measures against offenders.
Extensive ground and forest fires especially on Sumatra and Borneo during the dry season have resulted in serious air pollution in the region.
Several times in the past, the smoky pollution has blanketed the sky over a large swath of area in Southeast Asia, causing traffic and health hazards.
Governments have blamed the continuing practice of land clearing by burning for most of the haze, although burning peat veins in the soil is also seen as a contributing factor to the smoke.
Indonesia has outlawed land clearing by fire, but enforcement has been weak in the face of inadequate manpower and finances.
The meeting concluded that Thailand will chair the MSC in 2013.