ASEAN, Indonesia Ready to Phase out Haze

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Jul. 19 – The ASEAN nations have recently agreed to better monitor the burning of jungles throughout the region – especially in Indonesia and Malaysia – by way of a newly signed agreement after thick smoke has clouded parts of Singapore for much of the past month.

The agreement allows for the better dissemination of monitoring systems, including satellite photography, an improved mapping system and more efficient data sharing among the 10 member states. This system, called the Haze Monitoring System, was developed by Singapore and will be implemented across the region.

A key component of this system is the sharing of concession maps which, when combined with satellite imagery, allows governments to pinpoint the regions that are prone to fires and which companies are primarily responsible for them.

Most of the ASEAN countries have already agreed to these procedures, however, Indonesia has agreed to share their maps internally but not to make them public. Indonesia has argued that its laws do now allow for the public release of the maps for confidentiality reasons.

Singapore’s Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan added: “I’m somewhat disappointed at [Indonesia’s] slow progress.”

“We would prefer that all this data be available in public domain. Greater transparency does put pressure on companies and helps to ensure that they behave themselves. Nevertheless, I think this is still one step forward, that we can share data, that companies will know these data have been shared amongst the civil servants,” he further said.

Most of the ASEAN countries have previously signed an environmental agreement called the “Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution” (Agreement), which was established in 2002. The Agreement sought to fix the trans-regional haze problem ASEAN is facing caused by land clearing via open burning – something that has happened much more prominently in Indonesia who, unfortunately, is also the only country to not yet have ratified the agreement.

However, Indonesian Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya has recently said that the country hopes to ratify the haze pollution agreement by 2014.

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