KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is ready to send its firefighters and the Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (Smart) to help neighbouring Indonesia in combatting the haze this year.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said he had been notified by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to ready these teams if Indonesia asked for them.
Speaking after chairing the 19th meeting of the sub-regional Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) on Transboundary Haze Pollution, Dr Wan Junaidi added that he had also received assurances that there would be no haze this year.
In 2016, he said, Indonesia took large-scale action by deploying soldiers, police and district officers in places where open burning is usually done to combat the haze.
“Due to the systematic and aggressive action, we only had about one day of haze.
“If you ask the Singaporeans, they will also say it was only for one day, although there were actually three,” the minister said.
Indonesia has consistently given assurances to its neighbours that it would clamp down on open burning and that there would not be any haze during the dry season.
Both Dr Wan Junaidi and Asean secretary-general Le Luong Minh said a study on the economic, health and social impact of the 2015 haze which blanketed most of South-East Asia, was ready and being disseminated to member countries.
“The road map seems to be working. Hopefully, by 2020, we will achieve the target of haze-free Asean,” the minister added.
The annual meeting is attended by ministers and representatives responsible for the environment, land, forest fires and haze, from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.
A press statement released by the body noted that the Asean Specialised Metereological Centre (ASMC) forecast dry weather conditions for the region from June until October.
Below normal to normal rainfall is also expected, the statement said. The MSC countries have pledged to continuously monitor and step up efforts to minimise transboundary smoke haze from land and forest fires.
Thailand will host next year’s meeting.
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