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Straits Times Forum 29 May 07
Indonesian NGOs, local officials want haze stopped
Letter from Simon Tay
Chairman, Singapore Institute of International Affairs
Hadi Soesastro
Executive Director, Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Indonesia
Mubariq Ahmad
Executive Director, WWF-Indonesia

WE REFER to the article, 'Help fight illegal logging: Indonesia' (ST, May 12).

Your correspondent is correct that at the workshop which our three organisations held in Jakarta on the Asean Haze Agreement, the Indonesian Minister for Forestry expressed his wish to seek assistance from the region to combat illegal logging.

However, it is also notable that all the Indonesian non-government organisations and local officials from fire-prone provinces in Riau and Jambi were in favour of addressing the haze problem.

Additionally, the official representative of the Indonesian Ministry for the Environment reminded the audience that they had presented the Asean Haze Agreement for parliamentary approval.

In the interim, they pointed out that many efforts are being taken up in Indonesia's National Plan, even without the ratification of the agreement.

Why are the majority of Indonesians keen to address the issue? They have come to realise the serious effect of the fires and haze not only on neighbouring states, but also on Indonesians.

The heavy costs on public health and the people of the fire-prone areas, and the economic costs as a whole, have been estimated to run into billions of US dollars.

Moreover, the evidence shows that there is no strong link between the fires and illegal logging.

By the admission of even the Ministry of Forestry, less than one quarter of the fires occurred in forest areas. The majority occurred on plantation land and the worst were in peatland areas.

It is also important to note that the Ministry of Forestry did not link cooperation on the haze to efforts to stem illegal logging, as a precondition.

The Asean region does share a common ecology, as the fires and haze remind us, and cooperation needs to be strengthened in a number of areas.

The haze has been a longstanding problem that deserves priority attention and the Asean Haze Agreement is an important step that should be supported.

Related articles on Singapore: haze
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