Asean haze meeting ends with little progress made

A meeting on Tuesday between Singapore, Brunei, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia delegates to tackle the haze problem has yielded only incremental progress, even as they acknowledged that the weather in the next few months could be dryer than usual. This could lead to unprecedented haze.

A computer system developed by Singapore to monitor the haze and identify culprits behind fires has also been stymied by Indonesia’s inability to provide maps that can pinpoint who is responsible for the land plots where the fires occur.

Speaking to the media after the meeting, Singapore’s Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said he was “frustrated at the very slow pace of progress” and “disappointed at the lack of transparency”.

This, even as parts of the region are expected to have less rainfall than usual from now until October. A weather phenomenon associated with droughts in South-east Asia may also strike in the second half of the year. The Singapore Government has said these conditions may lead to haze here worse than even last year’s record levels of pollution.

Still, Dr Balakrishnan said the meeting led to some progress. Singapore hopes to finalise a collaboration with Indonesia to resume anti-fire efforts in parts of Indonesia. Indonesia is also in the midst of ratifying the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

The delegates said they will “also continue to be vigilant and take additional preventive measures and immediate fire suppression in the event of any… transboundary haze in the coming months”, although they did not specify the measures even after being asked repeatedly.

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