Legal obstacle to sharing of maps to fight haze

Legal obstacle to sharing of maps to fight haze

KUALA LUMPUR - As Asean environment ministers gathered here on Wednesday to hammer out a solution to the annual haze, a stumbling block has emerged after preparatory meetings that began on Monday.

Indonesian and Malaysian government officials have told their counterparts that the sharing of maps key to pinpointing those who burn land illegally may not be allowed under their laws, The Straits Times understands.

These land concession maps, if accurate and official, specify exactly who owns the rights to carry out logging or plantation activity on a particular tract of land.

When used with satellite images of hot spots, they can provide evidence for enforcement action.

This has been one of the solutions proposed to tackle the haze - which may return to Singapore in the next fortnight - ahead of today's 15th Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) on Transboundary Haze Pollution. The participating countries are Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand and Singapore.

Singapore's delegation is led by Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan. A joint statement is expected after today's meeting.

But some officials involved in two days of closed-door technical meetings ahead of the ministerial gathering were not optimistic of a favourable outcome.

A source said one Indonesian official even read out the clause of one of his country's laws to bolster his case that releasing land concession maps was not possible.

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

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