ASEAN ministers express concern over 'unprecendented severity' of haze

At their meeting in Hanoi, the environment ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation's member states committed to developing a roadmap for a haze-free ASEAN by 2020.
Channel NewsAsia 29 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE: Environment Ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states on Thursday (Oct 29) expressed their concern over the "unprecedented severity and geographical spread" of the recent smoke haze affecting the region, and expressed sympathy to the millions of people affected by the haze.

They also reaffirmed their commitment to the objectives and principles of the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, and agreed to step up cooperation to effectively implement this in its entirety, with the aim of eliminating the scourge of haze in the region within five years.

"The Ministers are committed to develop an ASEAN Haze-Free Roadmap which is an action-oriented and time-bound framework for ASEAN Member States to achieve the vision of Haze-Free ASEAN by 2020," they said.


At the 11th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution in Hanoi, Vietnam, the respective ministers responsible for the environment reviewed regional cooperation on a number of haze-related issues, in particular actions taken under the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, and discussed new initiatives to further promote regional cooperation in addressing transboundary haze pollution.

"The Ministers noted and appreciated the collaborative efforts undertaken by Indonesia, the neighbouring ASEAN countries and the international community to address the forest fires and the associated smoke haze," they added in a media release.

The member states also pledged to remain vigilant and implement haze preventive measures in anticipation of strong El-Nino conditions.

ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre’s weather outlook, in which the strong El-Nino conditions that currently prevail are likely to extend into early 2016, suggests that hotspot activities are likely to increase in the northern nations with the onset of the traditional dry season in November and December, the ministers said.

However, they were more optimistic about countries in southern ASEAN, with the monsoon seasons from late October to December possibly helping to subdue hotspot activities in region.


In their joint press release, the ministers said they had reviewed national, sub-regional and regional activities to address land and forest fires in the region and its associated transboundary haze pollution.

They welcomed the "significant progress" in the implementation of the Work Programme of the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, including concrete on-the-ground activities such as multi-national cooperation to fight fires; and implementation of the ASEAN Peatland Management Strategy (2006-2020).

The Ministers also encouraged ASEAN Member States to enhance bilateral and multinational collaboration, according to the statement.

"ASEAN Member States agreed to share information, subject to respective national laws and policies and international obligations. The Ministers also agreed to institutionalise the possible activation of international assistance by member states early in the haze season at the appropriate alert level."

At the same time, the Ministers said they recognised the need for ASEAN Member States to revisit their respective national plan of action in order to effectively address the land and forest fires that cause haze in the region.

ASEAN said the Ministers endorsed Indonesia’s intention to host the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Transboundary Haze Pollution Control, and further tasked Indonesia to continue to work towards timely establishment of the Centre.

Meanwhile, the Ministers suggested that Indonesia explore the use of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management to ensure efficient and quick response to the outbreak of haze-causing fires.

ASEAN's environment ministers will meet again in 2016 in Malaysia, at the 12th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

- CNA/es