Indonesia to ratify haze pact
COULD the end of the haze hazard finally be in sight?
It might not be too much to hope for, after Indonesia yesterday agreed to ratify a regional haze pact it signed 12 years ago, in an effort to stem illegal burning blamed for pollution that smothers neighbours Singapore and Malaysia annually.
The agreement obliges Indonesia to strengthen its policies on forest fires and haze, participate actively in regional decision-making on the issue and dedicate more resources to the problem, both regionally and domestically.
Approving the transboundary haze legislation "is the right move for Indonesia to show its seriousness in preventing transboundary haze", Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya said in his speech to Parliament.
Lawmakers agreed on the Bill a month after Singapore's Parliament passed a law that punishes crimes causing haze, leaving Indonesia the last of 10 nations in Asean to pass the regional pact.
The Asean Transboundary Haze Pollution agreement requires members to prevent and control pollution from land or forest fires, and provide information to each other.
Countries can also request the assistance of firefighters from member nations.
Its passage comes as haze from Sumatra spreads to Malaysia and Singapore, where the air quality on Monday briefly hit the "unhealthy" range.
Singapore and Malaysia have been plagued for decades by periodic haze caused by clouds of ash from forest fires in Indonesia - the world's largest producer of palm oil - that may have been started to clear land for plantations.
The number of hot spots from Indonesian forest fires is expected to peak this month and next, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the country's disaster-mitigation agency, yesterday.
Satellites detected 630 hot spots in the central Kalimantan region on Borneo island yesterday, and over 300 in Sumatra, he added.
Last month, Singapore passed a Bill that gives the Government powers to fine companies that cause or contribute to haze up to $2 million - up from $300,000 previously - regardless of whether they have an office in Singapore.