Indons yet to ratify haze pact


BY JANE RITIKOS

SUBANG: Indonesia, which has contributed to the country's haze problem with its forest fires, has yet to ratify the Asean Transboundary Haze Agreement enforced last November.  

Malaysia has expressed hopes that Indonesia would soon commit itself to the agreement after six of the 10 Asean countries ratified it. 

Department of Environment director-general Rosnani Ibarahim said Malaysia had been urging Indonesia to ratify the agreement, adding that the country had said for some time that it was working on it. 

Rosnani noted that as a non-signatory, Indonesia was not obligated to abide by the agreement. 

Malaysia suffered its worst haze problem in 1998 due to the El Nino weather phenomenon and the Indonesian's forest fires. Subsequently, an Asean co-operation was formed to address transboundary haze problem.  

The six countries that signed the agreement in 2002 before its enforcement were Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Myanmar and Vietnam. 

Its contents include provisions on monitoring, assessment and prevention, scientific research and technical co-operation, lines of communication and simplified Customs and Immigration procedures for disaster relief.  

It also obligates the parties to respond promptly to a request for information sought by a country or countries that are or may be affected by transboundary haze pollution, when the pollution originates from within their territories. 

Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister S. Sothinathan said the ministry hoped that Indonesia would give its co-operation in tackling the problem of haze. 

He said Malaysia had notified Indonesia of the situation and to take appropriate action at the source, adding that Malaysia was awaiting Indonesia's response. 

He said that although Indonesia was not a signatory to the agreement, which was non-binding, the country had always co-operated to resolve the haze problem and in the past, had sought Malaysia's assistance. 

He added that if the situation worsened the ministry would call for a bilateral meeting of senior officers or a ministerial level meeting at the Asean level.  

“But at the moment, the situation does not warrant it. It is just affecting the west coast of the peninsula and not other Asean countries,” he said. 

The number of hotspots on Tuesday detected via satellite images was 33 in Sumatra compared with 254 hotspots the day before that. There were also 40 hotspots detected in Kalimantan and two in Sarawak. 

Rosnani said the ministry would release information to the public on the air quality because the people needed to be aware of the situation.  

Rosnani, who said the situation was under control, added that the people could continue with their daily outdoor activities but noted that those with breathing problems should practise caution. 

There were some improvement in the air quality in Klang Valley yesterday with only Port Klang and Shah Alam still recording unhealthy levels.  

Manjung improved to moderate levels compared with an unhealthy level on Tuesday. 

Some areas in the southern parts of the peninsula were experiencing deterioration in the air quality because of the more dominant south-west monsoon winds which headed towards the central and south of the peninsula. 

Visibility levels at the southern parts also dropped to about 2km yesterday morning but was expected to improve in the day. 

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