Asean go-ahead for joint haze monitoring system

Asean go-ahead for joint haze monitoring system
From left: Philippines President Benigno Aquino III, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra,Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Myanmar President Thein Sein chain their hands during the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, on Wednesday, Oct 9, 2013. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has welcomed Asean's decision to adopt a joint haze monitoring system (HMS) at the regional grouping's summit now taking place in Brunei, calling it a "concrete example of cooperation".

Asean leaders on Wednesday adopted a joint haze monitoring system (HMS) which will allow the tracking down of culprits behind the annual air pollution that affects countries in the region.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong welcomed the move as a "concrete example of cooperation".

"This approval of the HMS will allow us to implement the system and track down those responsible for causing the haze, and over time manage the problem," he told his counterparts at the ASEAN Summit.

He also said it was important for ASEAN's credibility that the regional grouping address the issue collectively.

The backing of all 10 ASEAN leaders is a signal to ministries and agencies to start sharing data needed for the HMS to be effective, PM Lee and Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan told reporters.

The $100,000 monitoring system, developed by Singapore, uses high-resolution satellite images together with land use and concession maps to pinpoint culprits who burn land illegally.

It will be implemented in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and Thailand - the five members of a sub-regional committee for haze.

Dr Balakrishnan said: "The ball is in the court of the relevant ministries and we will work closely together with them to facilitate this process as quickly as possible."

The sharing of concession maps has been a sticking point in previous discussions. Singapore wants the maps to be publicly available but Malaysia and Indonesia cited legal concerns over going public.

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