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15 Nov 06
Battle against haze hots up
Channel NewsAsia 14 Nov 06
Strong sense of urgency among ASEAN countries to tackle haze
By Hasnita A Majid
SINGAPORE : A stronger El Nino effect is expected to hit the region again next year, so there is a strong sense of urgency among countries in the region to prevent the haze from becoming an even bigger problem.
Environment and Water Resources Minister Yaacob Ibrahim says progress has been made just in the last five weeks, but more needs to be done.
The burning question in Parliament is what more can be done about the haze, if 10 years of efforts have not been adequate.
The five affected ASEAN countries have now met to discuss concrete plans, including committing to quarterly meetings. And the main focus is fire prevention as well as building up expertise so that Indonesia can sustain its efforts in the long run.
"Getting farmers to change livelihood and adopt clearing methods will take time because, for example, clearing land by fire to using tractors and machinery, you have to know how to use the equipment first. So it requires a lot of plans that will need to be implemented. I assure you that we will continue to work on this but we will not be able to solve this in one or two weeks," says Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Yaacob Ibrahim.
Dr Yaacob says that he hopes details of the implementation plans will be sorted out by the time the Ministerial Committee meets again in February 2007.
He adds that while there is clear and strong political commitment on Indonesia's part to eradicate the problem, the country needs to ratify the ASEAN Haze Agreement to show its political resolve.
Agreeing that the problem has persisted despite 10 years of effort, the Foreign Affairs Ministry says the haze problem has not affected relations with Indonesia.
However, the haze problem is a serious transboundary problem which also affects the global climate and that is why Singapore had to raise the issue at the United Nations. Second Foreign Affairs Minister Raymond Lim says: "Neither Indonesia nor ASEAN can solve this problem without international support. This is a major environmental problem and can only be overcome with full international support.
"Moreover there is an urgency to find a speedy solution as meteorologists have warned that the haze could be far worse next year if the El Nino situation deteriorates. We must take this warning seriously. That's why Singapore felt compelled to take up the issue at the UN to help mobilise international expertise and resources."
Singapore has committed to working closely with the Indonesian government, international community and local non-government groups to find a lasting solution. - CNA /ls
Today Online 15 Nov 06
Battle against haze hots up
Ansley Ng email@example.com
THANKS to the lurking El Nino, which is threatening to strike in force next year, a strong sense of urgency has seized the region in the battle against haze.
In fact, what has been happening in the last five weeks, during which regional officials were engaged in a series of meetings, has yielded "hope and optimism", said Environment and Water Resources Minister Yaacob Ibrahim yesterday as he fielded questions from MPs on the haze situation.
Describing the measures that have been drawn up as "concrete", the minister however cautioned that it is not a problem that can be solved overnight. "I am a bit more optimistic now that we have something concrete," said Dr Yaacob. "(But) will we solve the problem next year? I don't think so. We would require long-term effort."
Singaporeans should not expect this to be solved in one or two years, he said. He explained: "You need concrete action at the ground to develop new capacities among farmers and land owners to make sure they resolve to use land clearing methods that were more environmentally friendly."
Even as they set out to fight the haze problem on two fronts, fire prevention and suppression, simply having farmers change their slash-and-burn method to the modern method to clear land would take some time, Dr Yaacob added. They would have to be given equipment, and be taught to use and maintain it.
While there is clear and strong political commitment on Indonesia's part to eradicate the problem, Dr Yaacob also said that the country needs to ratify the Asean (Association of South-east Asian Nations) Haze Agreement to show its political resolve. He hopes details of the implementation plans will be sorted out before the Ministerial Committee meets again in February 2007.
In response to MP Madam Halimah Yacob (Jurong GRC) who wanted to know the impact of the haze problem on the economy and the health of the population, Dr Yaacob said that a local professor is studying economic losses from the haze.
Prolonged periods of haze, he added, would lead to losses stemming from a rise in hospitalisation cost, tourism, productivity and recreational activities.
Related articles on Singapore: Haze and Global issues: Climate change
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