Five ASEAN members to discuss progress on haze pollution fight

Five ASEAN members to discuss progress on haze pollution fight

27 July 2015

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ASEAN–  Jakarta: Environment ministers of five ASEAN members will meet in the Indonesian capital on Tuesday (Jul 28) to discuss the progress of measures being taken to fight haze pollution in the region.

Senior officials from the five Southeast Asian countries met in Jakarta on Monday to prepare the groundwork for talks.

One of the items on the agenda is the ASEAN Haze Monitoring System (AHMS), developed by Singapore in 2012 to enhance hotspot monitoring. It is a computerised system that combines hot-spot data, high-resolution satellite pictures and land concession maps. This is to help identify and hold plantation companies and land owners accountable for their land clearing activities and fires in their areas.

However, the system has yet to become operational although ASEAN leaders adopted it in 2013 because concession maps from member countries are not available.

Singapore is expected to push for the AHMS to be up-and-running as soon as possible. Indonesia has said it is ready to share its concession map next year, amid fears it may be delayed.

“Still we keep to that schedule, meaning that it is still on track,” said Arief Yuwono, Indonesia’s Deputy Minister for Environment Degradation Control and Climate Change.

Environment groups agree that the AHMS should be implemented soon, but they recognise the challenges faced by the Indonesian authorities.

Fitrian Ardiansyah, Indonesia country director at IDH-The Sustainable Trade Initiative, said: “I see the challenge of getting different sectors to provide information, and under those sectors you have different companies operating across Indonesia to provide the type of information.

“So it’s not necessary easy to consolidate those different maps with different systems, with different numerical orders. And second of all, layers of government … you have district level, you have provincial level and you have national level that would eventually consolidate all the things.”

Environment ministers will also define the role of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre (ACC) at Tuesday’s meeting.

Indonesia has expressed interest to manage the ACC, after it officially ratified the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution this year. The ASEAN Secretariat based in Jakarta has been responsible for managing an interim centre, but now that could be taken over by the Indonesian government.

Activists hope the regional centre set up to tackle forest fires can help coordinate efforts among governments, the private sector, and civil society groups.

Yuyun Indradi, a political forest campaign team leader at Greenpeace SEA Indonesia, said: “At the moment, the civil society has its own initiatives in terms of campaigning, and monitoring the issue of forest fires and haze, and also the private sector has its own efforts in terms of tackling deforestation and fire. The government also has its own things and unfortunately the effort is sporadic and divided.”

Environment ministers are also expected to give updates on how bilateral cooperation to tackle transboundary haze is progressing. Indonesia’s collaboration agreements with Singapore and Malaysia in this area have ended, but the countries are keen to renew them.

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