‘Asean haze centre is needed’

Gloomy sky: A visitor taking snapshots of the Kuala Lumpur skyline amid the haze. — AZLINA ABDULLAH/The Star

JAKARTA: With the dry season this year expected to be more prolonged and intense with the El Nino phenomenon, ministers from the region say it is important to expedite the establishment of the Asean Coordinating Centre for Transboundary Haze Pollution Control in Indonesia.

Ministers and officials attending the sub-regional ministerial steering committee on transboundary haze pollution on Thursday said the centre will allow faster and more effective implementation of all aspects of the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

The meeting was attended by ministers and officials for the environment, land, forest fires and haze from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, as well as the Asean Secretariat deputy secretary-general.

El Nino and La Nina are climate patterns in the Pacific Ocean that can affect global weather.

Based on current climate models, the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre forecasts a 70%-80% chance for El Nino conditions to develop between this month and September, and for a positive Indian Ocean Dipole to develop between this month and July.

“Both these climate phenomena would likely result in below normal rainfall for many parts of the southern Asean region in the next few months,” the ministers said in a statement.

The countries also reaffirmed their readiness to provide firefighting assistance if requested, and enhanced coordination to fight land and forest fires when necessary.

Meanwhile, the Asean Food Security Reserve Board (AFSRB) met on June 7 in Bogor district, located in Indonesia’s West Java province, to address challenges such as food security and El Nino.

During the two-day meeting, Arief Prasetyo Adi, head of Indonesia’s National Food Agency (Bapanas), brought up the issues raised by Indonesian President Joko Widodo regarding global food shortages and starvation as a consequence of climate change.

“Adi also highlighted how the conflict between Ukraine and Russia has exacerbated problems in the agriculture sector,” reported Vietnam News Agency (VNA).

The primary focus of the meeting was to gather and update information on the current needs of Asean countries and explore intergovernmental measures to tackle these challenges.

One proposed solution to enhance food security in the region was to strengthen the commitment of Asean member countries through the Asean Leaders’ Declaration on Food Security.

This declaration will be discussed during the AFSRB meeting before being submitted to the Asean Summit in September.

Adi said the declaration aims to develop mechanisms and unify the role of all relevant sectoral bodies within Asean, including those in agriculture, trade, finance, and transportation with the aim of enhancing food security and nutrition throughout the region. — Bernama

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