Asean adopts roadmap to become haze-free by 2020


KUALA LUMPUR: A roadmap on regional cooperation to tackle the persistant haze problem has been adopted by Asean in its effort to achieve a transboundary haze-free region in less than four years.

The roadmap, aptly called Asean Cooperation towards Trans­boundary Haze Pollution Control with Means of Implementation, serves as a framework towards a haze-free region by 2020.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said all ministers have reaffirmed their commitment to prevent and monitor transboundary haze pollution from land and forest fires through concerted national efforts and regional cooperation.

Yesterday, Asean ministers and officials convened at the 12th meeting of the conference here.

Dr Wan Junaidi said he was optimistic that, with Indonesia’s commitment, the haze situation this year would be less severe.

“Indonesia has given its assurance. A total of 3,000 military and police personnel have been put on watch to monitor the haze situation,” he added.

The senior adviser on energy to Indonesia’s Minister of Environ­ment and Forestry, Arief Yuwono, said President Joko Widodo issued a directive to seriously combat and prevent land and forest fires.

“The Environment and Forestry Ministry has given instructions to 708 villages to be ready to combat initial fire on the ground.

“Indonesia will depend on its people first before calling for help from our Asean counterparts in fighting land fires,” Arief added.

A majority of Asean member states contributed to the Asean Transboundary Haze Pollution Control Fund with an initial seed fund of US$500,000 (RM2mil).

Dr Wan Junaidi said each country would be using its own resources to tackle the haze.

“The fund is only for capacity building and such. We don’t have the funds to buy a Bombardier aircraft or hire firefighters. Not at the moment,” he added.

In his opening speech, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi urged Asean member countries to revive the high priority cooperation in tackling transboundary haze.

He said some of the activities had become dormant due to a lack of resources.

“Let us not only reflect on the issues, but also focus on solutions and encourage one another in achieving our national plans and targets to eliminate the haze problem,” he said.

The high-priority areas or activities include technical cooperation to increase the preparedness for and to mitigate the risks to human health and the environment from land and forest fires and haze pollution, implementation of activities to promote zero burning and controlled burning practice, and to conduct simulation exercises to enhance joint emergency response.

The Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (AATHP) was established in 2002 as one of the key steps towards air pollution management in this region to address the annual problem since 1997.

It was ratified by all member states in January 2015. The 13th conference will be held in Brunei next year.