Asean finds compromise on tackling haze issue

Asean finds compromise on tackling haze issue

SINGAPORE - ASEAN environment ministers reached a compromise on the contentious haze problem, while holding out hopes that their leaders' summit in October would provide fresh breakthroughs.

Meeting in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, they agreed to recommend the adoption of a joint haze monitoring system (HMS) developed by Singapore, and the limited sharing of official maps to track down culprits who start forest fires.

The compromise came after resistance from Indonesia and Malaysia in making these official maps public, citing legal concerns. The adoption of the HMS awaits approval at the Asean Leaders' Summit, which will be held in Brunei in October.

"We didn't get everything that we wanted, but I think there is some progress. Setting the deadline of October 2013? to launch the HMS is a good starting point," Singapore's Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told a joint press conference after the meeting ended.

"In the meantime, I think all the companies are put on notice that we're watching."

If adopted, the HMS will be used by Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Thailand.

The five countries, which are in the Asean sub-regional ministerial steering committee (MSC) on transboundary haze pollution, had brought forward their scheduled meeting by a month after the region suffered its worst episode of haze since 1997.

During the three-day session - described by some officials as intense - Singapore had pushed for public disclosure of official land- use and concession maps, to allow the public to exert pressure on errant companies or individuals.

Haze in Singapore & Malaysia
Click on thumbnail to view (Photos: ST, TNP, The Star, AFP, Reuters)

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