Ministers responsible for the environment from ASEAN member states have agreed to set up a task force comprising a panel of experts on fire and haze assessment and coordination to review existing alert levels and formulate trigger points.
This was decided during the 14th Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment and 9th Meeting of the Conference of Parties to the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution last Thursday in Surabaya, Indonesia.
Invited ministers reviewed regional cooperation on a number of environmental issues, particularly relating to actions in the environmental sustainability section of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprint, and discussed new initiatives to further promote regional environmental cooperation.
The ministers also evaluated national, sub-regional and regional activities to address land and forest fires in the region and its associated transboundary haze pollution.
The ministers then welcomed the significant progress in the implementation of the Work Programme of the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, including concrete on-ground activities; progress in the development of the ASEAN-wide Fire Danger Rating System; implementation of the ASEAN Peatland Management Strategy (2006-2020) and the implementation of the Strategic Review on the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) on Transboundary Haze Pollution programmes.
The updated ASEAN Peatland Management Strategy (2006-2020) was also adopted.
Member states also pledged to remain vigilant and continuously monitor and implement haze prevention activities after noting the prevailing rainy season, and its keeping of hotspot activities subdued until the onset of the traditional dry season in the northern ASEAN region at the end of the year.
The southern ASEAN region is expected to experience the prevailing dry season till early October.
An increase in hotspot activities leading to the occurrence of transboundary haze may be expected during these extended periods of dry weather conditions.
Several member states have contributed to the ASEAN Transboundary Haze Pollution Control Fund towards realising its the provision of an initial seed contribution amounting to US$500,000.
The significant progress and achievements seen from the Rehabilitation and Sustainable Use of Peatland Forests in Southeast Asia Project (funded by the Global Environment Facility) and the SEApeat Project (funded by the European Union) will conclude in 2014.
Ministerial support for the Programme on Sustainable Management of Peatland Ecosystem in ASEAN from 2014 to 2020 is built on lessons learned from these two projects which aim to achieve the objectives of the ASEAN Peatland Management Strategy.
The development of a similar long-term programmatic approach will address fires in the Mekong region, which mostly originate from agricultural activities and forest areas.
The ministers responsible for the environment will meet again in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR) in 2014 at the 15th Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment and the 10th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.