No chance of haze this year, says Indonesia

|     Azlan Othman     |


INDONESIA yesterday assured its Asean neighbours that there will be no transboundary haze problems plaguing the region’s skyline this year.

Indonesian Environment and Forestry Ministry advisor Arief Yuwono said the prediction was based on last year’s record following stringent measures successfully implemented to curb forest fire and control smoke haze pollution in the republic.

“In 2017, we already made observation and comparison to 2016.

“With a weaker El Niño, we anticipate that we can repeat that (2016), which saw almost zero recurrence of haze,” he said when met after attending the 19th Technical Working Group & Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution, held in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

The two-day high level meeting was chaired by Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

Minister of Development, Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Bahrin bin Abdullah (far left) in a group photo with other Asean ministers
Minister of Development, Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Bahrin bin Abdullah (far left) in a group photo with other Asean ministers

Brunei Darussalam was represented by the Minister of Development, Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Bahrin Bin Abdullah and the Permanent Secretary (Administration and Finance) at the Ministry of Development as well as officials from the Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation (JASTRe).

Following a bad bout of haze pollution in 2015, Indonesia last year begun to take serious steps to address the annual environmental problem, which yielded positive outcome with Singapore only reported one day of haze while Malaysia, three days.

Arief said the Indonesian government had since early this year begun to put in place measures to prevent and mitigate smoke haze pollutions, including having a better organised firefighter teams and had activated integrated patrols in areas that are prone to forest fire.

He said the Indonesian government also got the private companies to involve proactively in curbing forest fire and haze.

“Forest fire is a national priority and it is supervised by our president (Joko Widodo).

“In early 2017, the president already gave us instructions related to forest fire from the policymaker to the ground level.

“Besides that, we also have strong commitment to law enforcement, with some companies are now being investigated (for causing haze pollutions),” he said.

Earlier, in the news conference after chairing the meeting, Wan Junaidi also said the Indonesian minister had given his assurance on the issue in the meeting.

He said Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Thailand also reaffirmed their readiness to provide assistance if requested and to work with Indonesia for emergency response when necessary.

The five Asean member countries also reaffirmed their commitment to work towards a Haze Free Asean by 2020, he added.

The 19th Meeting of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution (19th MSC) was attended by ministers/representatives responsible for the environment, for land, forest fires, and haze, from Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, and the Secretary-General of Asean.

The 19th Meeting of the Technical Working Group on Transboundary Haze Pollution (19th TWG) preceded the meeting.

In a Joint Statement issued yesterday, the ministers noted the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre’s (ASMC’s) outlook that dry weather conditions are expected for the region between June and October 2017.

In addition, with a chance of El Niño conditions emerging in the upcoming dry season, below normal to normal rainfall is expected for the region, and hotspot activities in 2017 are likely to be more active compared to that in 2016.

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 MSC countries reaffirmed their readiness to provide assistance, if requested, and work for emergency response when necessary, and called for enhanced cooperation and coordination to ensure the timely and effective deployment of international resources for firefighting assistance, mitigate land and forest fires, and to control smoke haze pollution.

The ministers recalled the commitment and guidance of the Asean Leaders at the 30th Asean Summit held on April 29 in Manila towards regional cooperation on transboundary haze pollution control, including their concern over the rapidly changing climate and its adverse impacts, causing severe social and economic disruptions and damage throughout the region.

The ministers reiterated their commitment to fully and effectively implement the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (AATHP) and the Roadmap on Asean Cooperation towards Transboundary Haze Pollution Control with Means of Implementation to achieve a Haze-Free Asean by 2020, including the comprehensive Plan of Action (PoA) on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

The ministers provided guidance for TWG to initiate corresponding projects and activities to strengthen and synergise their cooperation that support the implementation of the roadmap.

The ministers recognised that it would be timely to conduct a mid-term review of the implementation of the roadmap in 2018 to take stock of the progress and sustain momentum in ensuring demonstrable improvements so as to achieve the vision of a haze-free Asean by 2020.