Oct 10, 2013

    Asean will adopt new system to track haze

    SOUTH-EAST Asian nations agreed yesterday to adopt a new system to improve monitoring of haze caused by fires, in an attempt to make plantation companies more accountable following the region's worst air-pollution crisis in 16 years.

    Thick haze, mostly from land-clearing fires in Indonesia, blanketed Singapore and swathes of Malaysia earlier this year, stoking diplomatic tensions as air pollution hit the most hazardous levels since a similar crisis in 1997.

    Asean, which began a two-day regional summit in Brunei yesterday, has been criticised in the past for not taking stronger action to prevent the chronic pollution problem.

    "Asean leaders have approved the Haze Monitoring System. We hope the respective ministries will upload the digitised concession maps as soon as possible," Singapore's Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, wrote on his official Facebook page.

    "It will send a strong signal to all companies that they will be held accountable."

    Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday's agreement was a "concrete example" of Asean cooperation.

    "You need data on who owns which piece of land, so that we can put the maps together with the satellite photos, and we can make information available," he said.