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NEWS UPDATES 30 July 2010

Ministers agree to monitor haze pollution

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Environment ministers from Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and representatives from Thailand and the ASEAN Secretariat have agreed to remain vigilant for possible occurrence of fires during the dry spell in the coming months.

They noted that traditional land clearing and replanting normally occur during this period, which may lead to escalation of fires during extended dry periods, Channel News Asia reports.

The ministers said there has been a drastic drop in the number of hot spots detected, particularly in Indonesia, since the severe haze in 2006 which led to the formation of the Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

Several innovative actions were taken, including the formulation and implementation of Indonesia's Plan of Action (PoA).

They said Indonesia's collaboration with Malaysia and Singapore in the provinces of Riau and Jambi had also been successfully implemented, putting the fire and haze situation under control.

The ministers expressed appreciation to Indonesia for its enhanced and new efforts in implementing its PoA to deal with haze pollution.

These included revising targets of hot spot reduction by 20 percent annually based on the 2006 data, beginning this year, and directing local governments to stay alert for any escalation of hot spots.

On Thursday, the ministers agreed to undertake a strategic review of the MSC framework and its activities with a view to further improve the mechanism and to draw out successful lessons that could be shared with other sub-regions and ASEAN in general.

They also noted it is possible to provide early warning of fire danger rating if there is a reliable forecast of the weather and wind conditions.

They agreed to encourage and support the further development and refinement of the Fire Danger Rating System (FDRS) which provides assessment of ignition potential, occurrence and spread of fires based on the weather, fuel and soil conditions.

Present at the meeting were Malaysia's Natural Resources and Environment Minister Douglas Uggah; Indonesia's Dr. Gusti Muhammad Hatta, Singapore's Dr Yaacob Ibrahim; Brunei's Awang Suyoi Osman; Thailand's Environment deputy permanent secretary Siripong Hangsapreuk and ASEAN deputy secretary-general Misran Karmain.

Singapore will assume the chairmanship of MSC for the next two years, with the next meeting scheduled to be held in the island state in February next year.

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