Hazy outcome to efforts to stop forest fires


Hazy outcome to efforts to stop forest fires

22 July 2013

published by www.travelmole.com

Indonesia — Efforts to reach an agreement on combating the haze that has shrouded Singapore and Malaysia remain, well…hazy.

In June, forest fires on the Indonesian island of Sumatra left neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia choking on the worst haze in more than a decade.

Environment ministers from Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand gathered in Kuala Lumpur this week hoping for an agreement that would clear the air once and for all.

Indonesia is the only member of ASEAN that has yet to ratify the bloc’s Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution brokered in 2002.

Indonesian environment minister Balthasar Kambuaya said he hoped Indonesia would ratify the regional treaty by year-end or early 2014.

The ministers agreed to launch a joint haze monitoring system developed by Singapore, but this is subject to approval at the ASEAN Leaders’ Summit in October.

A key component in this system is the sharing of concession maps, which when combined with satellite imagery, allows governments to pinpoint errant companies responsible for the forest fires.

Countries like Indonesia have agreed to share the maps with other governments but not make them public, citing legal reasons – which falls short of what Singapore has asked for.

Singapore’s environment and water resources minister Vivian Balakrishnan said: “I’m somewhat disappointed at the slow progress.”

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