Definitely no haze this year, Indonesia assures neighbours

Farezza Hanum Rashid New Straits Times 18 May 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: Indonesia has given its assurance that there will be no recurrence of the haze in 2017.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said this was the assurance given by the republic at the 19th Meeting of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution today.

The meeting was attended by representatives from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

“Last year, scientific monitoring showed that Malaysia suffered only two days of bad haze while Singapore had three days, a significant improvement from the worst haze we had in 2015.

“Indonesia took systematic actions in 2016 based on the Roadmap on Asean Cooperation towards Transboundary Haze Pollution Control with Means of Implementation, which led to the improved conditions last year,” Wan Junaidi said.

He said in case haze pollution occurs this year, Malaysia is prepared to assist the Indonesian government in tackling the situation if the latter needs it.

“I already have instructions from the Prime Minister. Our bombardier and Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (Smart) teams will be made available if the need arises," he said.


Malaysia ready to send team to Indonesia to stop haze
The Star 19 May 17;

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.

ASEAN ministers warn against complacency in tackling haze
Melissa Goh Channel NewsAsia 18 May 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: Indonesia has told its neighbours at an ASEAN meeting on Thursday (May 18) that the haze situation in the region will be like it was in 2016.

Ministers and senior officials from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Brunei met in Kuala Lumpur for the sub-regional steering committee on transboundary haze pollution – and said the roadmap towards achieving a haze free region by year 2020 is on track.

The roadmap on ASEAN Cooperation towards Transboundary Haze Pollution Control with Means of Implementation was ratified in 2016 by member countries.

"The roadmap seems to be working," said Malaysia’s Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar. "There wasn’t much haze in 2016; there were maybe two days of haze.

"Indonesia has assured us that this year will be like last year."

While countries have agreed to conduct a midterm review in 2018 on the progress of the roadmap implementation, consensus have been achieved on sharing of information on hotspots in respective countries, according to Singapore’s Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli.

In general, the weather condition this year is expected to be better than in 2016 said Wan Junaidi with mild El Nino effects, despite the dry spell in the region which is expected to last until September.

ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh told countries to remain vigilant. "There is no room for complacency," he said. "If you look at weather patterns in the last two years, it's been very abnormal - so we have to remain vigilant.

“We must continue with our efforts to implement haze control measures."

Indonesia has given its commitment to continue its peatland restoration programme, while the existing moratorium on giving out new concessions on peatland will continue.

Singapore’s Masagos also highlighted the efforts being done in enforcement. Culprits who start forest fires can be arrested and charged in Singapore if the companies fall under the city-state’s jurisdiction.

Banks have also implemented guidelines to stop all lending to errant companies, while consumers are encouraged to purchase products that come with the Singapore Green Label certification.

"Singapore stands ready to cooperate with its ASEAN neighbours to address land and forest fires," said Masagos. "Singapore collaborated with Jambi province on capacity building projects between 2007 and 2011 to address land and forest fires."

Minister Masagos said efforts to fight the haze need to be continued bilaterally, even though the agreement on sharing information does not go as far as sharing concession maps.

Singapore has also offered to revive the Memorandum of Understanding with Indonesia in controlling hotspots in Jambi, Sumatra. "They have yet to respond," said Masagos. "We are open to discussions but the Indonesian government needs to give us the right signal when the cooperation is needed."

Read more at http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/asean-ministers-warn-against-complacency-in-tackling-haze-8860568

S-E Asia ‘likely to see more hotspots than last year’
Today Online 18 May 17;

KUALA LUMPUR — South-east Asia is likely to see a higher number of hotspots linked to forest fires and haze this year compared with last year, a regional meteorological body has warned.

The Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC) added that with a chance of El Nino conditions emerging in the upcoming dry season from June to October, the region could also see less rainfall than normal.

The forecast by the ASMC — set up in 1993 as a regional collaboration programme among Asean member states’ national meteorological services — was cited in a statement released on Thursday (May 18) following a sub-regional Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) meeting on transboundary haze pollution.

The meeting in Kuala Lumpur was attended by Ministers and senior officials from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Brunei.

“MSC countries pledged to remain vigilant and continuously monitor and step up their haze preventive efforts to minimise any possible occurrence of transboundary smoke haze from land and forest fires in anticipation of the drier weather in the coming months,” the statement said, adding that the five countries will strengthen cooperation “to ensure the timely and effective deployment of international resources for firefighting assistance, mitigate land and forest fires, and to control smoke haze pollution”.

Haze caused by Indonesian farmers who burn forests to clear their land for agriculture is a recurring problem in the South-east Asia region.

In late 2015, Singapore, as well as Malaysia and parts of Thailand, suffered a severe haze that affected tens of millions of people, forcing schools to close and causing thousands across the region to fall sick.

Last year, however, the skies here were largely clear of the haze partly due to the wetter weather. There were just over a hundred hotspots in Indonesia, compared with thousands in 2015.

At Thurday's meeting, Indonesia gave the assurance that there will be no recurrence of transboundary haze this year. “Indonesia has assured us that this year will be like last year,” Malaysia’s Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar told reporters.

Mr Nazir Foead, the chief of Indonesia’s Peatland Restoration Agency, gave a similar assurance on the sidelines of an international forum on peatlands in Jakarta on Thursday.

South Sumatra province governor Alex Noerdin had told a panel discussion in Singapore last month that there will be no haze coming from his province this year.

Asean secretary-general Le Luong Minh was more cautious, urging countries to remain vigilant. “There is no room for complacency,” he said. “If you look at weather patterns in the past two years, it’s been very abnormal — so we have to remain vigilant. We must continue with our efforts to implement haze control measures.” AGENCIES

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