Haze: Palanivel to meet Indonesian environment counterpart

The Star, 22 Jun 2013

KUALA LUMPUR: Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel will meet his Indonesian counterpart on Wednesday to discuss ways to tackle the haze currently choking some parts of peninsula Malaysia and Singapore.

He said measures to be discussed included employing the cloud seeding method there.

“The major problem is Sumatra. Although there are local hot spots, these are easily dealt with and fires can be put out within an hour,” he told reporters on Saturday.

Palanivel said he would also discuss with the Indonesian authorities about how to control peat fires and open burning.

He stressed the need for all the Asean countries to sit together and discuss the issue, and expressed the desire for Indonesia to ratify the 2002 Southeast Asia Transboundary Haze Agreement (Seatha).

He said this would be discussed in the Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze which is likely to be pushed forward to July from August.

“It is quite important for us to come to some conclusions. Many people have been affected by the haze, with some even warded in hospitals. This is the drought season and there are too many hot spots and open burning going on,” he said.

Haze first entered Malaysian skies in 1982, with some of the worst readings recorded in 1997 and 2005.

This time around, Johor has been the hardest hit, with places like Muar, Pasir Gudang and Kota Tinggi recording very unhealthy to hazardous readings since this year’s haze began on June 15.

The haze, an acute problem in south-east Asia, is mainly caused by open burning in Indonesia for land clearing, in addition to other factors like hot and dry weather.

Indonesia, despite saying it would do so in 2006, is the only Asean nation yet to ratify the 2002 Seatha, which allows the countries to work together in preventing and fighting brush fires.