News: A historic step to tackle haze

The Star, 9 Sep 2015

KUALA LUMPUR: With Indo­nesia now on board – the last country to do so – the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution has now been ratified by all the member states.

This marks a historic step in the collective efforts by member nations to tackle the annual smog.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the ratification of the agreement was an “absolute necessity” and part of the Asean goal of promoting the right to clean air for member states.

“In January, Indonesia deposited the instrument of ratification of the Asean Agreement of Transboundary Haze Pollution with the Asean secretary-general.

“The agreement has now been ratified by all Asean member states,” he said in his keynote address at the 36th General Assembly of the Asean Inter-Parlia­mentary Assembly here yesterday.

The issue, he said, had become a topic of discussion with Malaysia being Asean’s chair this year.

“This is the first regional agreement, which has become quite a topic, that binds a group of conti­guous states to tackle transboundary haze pollution resulting from land and forest fires.

“It is a historic step and one that many of us in the region know all too well is an absolute necessity,” he said.

Parts of Malaysia are currently being blanketed by haze with the Air Pollutant Index (API) readings hovering near unhealthy levels in several locations, including Kuala Lumpur, which is host to several Asean programmes.

Indonesian Member of Parlia­ment in charge of environment and international relations Hamdhani Mukhdar Said said he would raise the matter up to push his govern­ment into putting in more efforts to deal with the haze problem.

“I want to apologise to the Malay­sian people for the haze. The annual haze is not intentional but due to the drought that affects parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan,” he told reporters during a break in the assembly.

The Indonesian government, he added, had set aside US$1mil (RM4.34mil) to the provinces affected by peat and forest fires.

“We will request the government to give more allocation to help fight the fires,” he added.

The transboundary agreement was first signed by Asean nations in 2002, with Malaysia being the first of the 10-member regional grouping to ratify its laws to address the issue.

Indonesia was the final nation to sign the agreement in September last year and ratified its laws this year.

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