Malaysia: Sarawak to host transboundary haze workshop next year

NURADZIMMAH DAIM New Straits Times 16 Nov 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: A workshop on transboundary haze will be held in Sarawak next year.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the state was selected as it is usually the first to be affected by the haze.

The workshop, he said, is part of ongoing efforts to tackle the recurring haze problems.

"Transfer of technology will also be done as Malaysia has expertise which can be shared with Indonesia. The methods that we can share with Indonesia on its peat lands are the installation of irrigation systems, as well as water blockage and tube wells at peat soil areas to ensure that it will remain wet to prevent fires. There were also proposals to install watchtowers in peat lands."

He said the Indonesian government had also given its assurance that it would sign the bilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to address the issue with Malaysia as soon as possible.

He said Indonesia had also shown its commitment by ratifying the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution document in January.

Other efforts, he said, were improving the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC) in Singapore for information-sharing among members for coordinated efforts to put out forest fires when they occur; and the incorporation of the Alert Levels, Trigger Points and Actions on Fire Suppression incorporated in the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

"We want to focus on these efforts before we can address the questions on law enactment."

On suggestions for Perak’s Kuala Gula bird sanctuary to be listed as a Ramsar site (sites designated under the Ramsar Convention or the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat), Junaidi said cooperation with the state government as the owner of the land is needed.

"A study was conducted to look for possibilities for the site to be included in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP) which will boost conservation efforts and promote the place as a tourism spot. We hope the Perak government can help us so that Kuala Gula can be declared a Ramsar site," he said.

On a question on smuggled ivory, Junaidi said a committee would be set up to audit the 3,472 ivories confiscated and stored by the Wildlife Department.

"The ivory are currently being kept at the department's vault room. Once the audit is completed, they will be disposed, hopefully by mid of next year," he said.

On bauxite mining in Pahang, he said while the report by Department of Environment on the water sample taken from the nearby rivers showed low contamination of heavy metals, ongoing monitoring and frequent discussions between federal and state governments are being carried out.

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