Jun 28, 2013

    Malaysia, Indonesia to work together

    MALAYSIA and Indonesia agreed to work together to find a permanent solution to the haze problem, Bernama reported yesterday.

    "Malaysia has expressed the hope that government officials from both countries could work constantly in monitoring and checking the hot spots, especially during the dry season, to prevent forest and peat fires which contribute to the haze problem," Natural Resources and Environment Minister G. Palanivel told reporters after meeting Indonesian Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya.

    Datuk Seri Palanivel also handed Dr Kambuaya a letter from Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak for Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

    After meeting his Indonesian counterpart in Jakarta, Mr Palanivel urged Indonesia to ratify a key South-east Asian treaty aimed at tackling the haze.

    "The Environment Minister has to deal with this ratification," he said. "If they can ratify the treaty, then they can go forward."

    The Asean agreement is aimed at tackling the annual outbreaks of haze by increasing regional cooperation.

    It was struck in 2002 following South-east Asia's worst haze crisis in 1997 and 1998, which was estimated to have cost the region US$9 billion.

    But while the Asean deal is principally aimed at stopping haze that comes from forest and slash-and-burn fires in Indonesia, Jakarta is the only member of the 10-country bloc yet to ratify it.

    Dr Kambuaya said yesterday that Indonesia was "in the process" of ratifying the treaty.

    Mr Palanivel said that a meeting between five Asean members on the haze scheduled for August would be brought forward to July 17 due to the current crisis.

    Thousands are tackling the fires, which are centred in Sumatra's Riau province. The blazes eased on Wednesday after heavy rainfall.

    The skies in Singapore are now clear, thanks to rain and favourable winds. In Malaysia, the haze has eased dramatically as rain fell in many areas after the haze hit hazardous levels in recent days.

    Palls of smoke from slash-and-burn agricultural fires pushed haze levels to record highs in Singapore last week, shrouding the city in smog, and badly affected parts of Malaysia.