Jul 18, 2013

    Jakarta to ratify haze pact by early 2014

    INDONESIA said yesterday that it hopes to ratify by early next year a regional treaty to fight haze from forest fires that bring misery to millions, but green activists poured cold water on the prospect.

    "We hope we can ratify the agreement by the end of the year or early next year," Indonesian Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya told reporters.

    Earlier yesterday, Mr Kambuaya and environment ministers from Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand and Singapore - which together form the South-east Asian bloc's "haze committee" - met to discuss ways to prevent the Indonesian forest fires.

    Indonesia is the only Asean member which has yet to ratify the bloc's Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, brokered in 2002.

    Mr T. Jayabalan, a public-health consultant and adviser to Friends of the Earth Malaysia, lauded Jakarta's move to ratify the treaty, but warned that lax law enforcement would mean that the haze problem would not go away.

    "It is a lukewarm measure. You can have all the regulations, but if enforcement is lax, we will continue to have haze," he said.

    Jakarta was also prepared to share concession maps of fire-prone areas with other governments, but said they would not be made available to the public as Singapore had requested.