Asean steps up efforts to counter haze

national November 03, 2015 01:00

By Pratch Rujivanarom
The Nation

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Countries agree on 'Road map to eliminate problem by 2020'; annual meeting to bolster local efforts



ASEAN countries have agreed to draw up a plan to eliminate haze in the region by 2020.

A top official at the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry disclosed the results yesterday of a recent meeting in Hanoi that led to the 11th Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution. Asean countries have agreed to work in both bilateral and multilateral forums to reduce the haze problem as much as possible over the next five years.

Permanent-secretary Kasemsant Jinnawaso said Natural Resources and Environment Minister General Surasak Kanchanarat had addressed the meeting on collaboration among Asean countries to tackle with the chronic haze problem by setting up a Haze-Free Asean Roadmap. Thailand will host a meeting on this next year.

“Asean countries representatives approved the decision to work on the roadmap, as it will be integrative plan to address the haze problem together,” Kasemsant said.

He said member countries would be required to review their ability to control the burning and reduce haze. Annual meetings would be held to see what measures can be devised to solve the problem.

“I understand that making Asean a haze-free region by 2020 is quite challenging or unrealistic. However, we need collaboration from the top international framework to the local level in order to reduce the haze as much as possible,” he said.

He said the meeting backed funding for restoration of peat swamp forests and conservation projects in Indonesia by using money from an Asean Haze Fund– because the burning of peat swamp forests to prepare land for palm oil plantations was the main cause of the haze crisis in that country.

In regard to preparations for the haze ‘season’ in northern Thailand, Pollution Control Department director Wijarn Simachaya revealed that the department has been working with local authorities to get a better understanding with farm communities so they refrain from burning fields in the upcoming dry season.

“The next dry season will be a harsh one because the strong ‘El Nino’ [weather phenomenon] still has effect on Thailand and it will result in more arid conditions than normal in the North. So, countries within the Mekong River region have agreed to work together on the haze prevention plan,” Wijarn said.

Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar had sent officials to Thailand to observe Thailand’s haze control mission, he said. And they had asked the Pollution Control Department to send mobile devices to measure air quality, so they can monitor the haze situation and address the problem based on the accurate information [on air pollution].

But, Kasemsant admitted that haze control in the North was a tough task because locals regard field burning in the dry season as the part of their agricultural lifestyle. So, it would be hard to change.

 

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