Resolve haze issue quickly, Zahid tells Indonesian govt

KUALA LUMPUR: Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has taken the Indonesian government to task for failing to speedily address the issue of open burning and forest fires.

He said countries in the region were plagued by the haze every year and there seemed to be no solution in sight.

"We are grateful that the Indonesian government is doing what it can to solve the issue, but the plan is taking too long for us to see its effectiveness," he said yesterday at the launch of U-turn, a talk show by TV Alhijrah and the Home Ministry.

Dr Ahmad Zahid said the prolonged haze was taking a heavy toll on the country and people, especially in terms of higher medical expenses due to haze-related health problems.

He said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tunku Jaafar had also been sent to Indonesia to discuss the issue and the steps to overcome the problem

Last Tuesday, BBC quoted Indonesian President Joko Widodo as saying that he needed at least three years to tackle the forest burning problem.

National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam urged ASEAN environment ministers to convene an emergency meeting to resolve the issue.

He suggested that the members set up an ASEAN Haze Fund to finance activities to tackle the issue, including awareness campaigns, preventive measures and fire-fighting exercises.

"Member countries could also apply from the fund to cover the healthcare costs in treating haze-related illnesses," he said in a statement.

Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Abim) said as the current ASEAN chairman, Malaysia should urgently convene and use all means to resolve the regional crisis.

"Abim urges the government to implement all the decisions spelled out in the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution," it said in a statement.

Fire and Rescue Department director-general Datuk Wan Mohd Noor Ibrahim said Malaysia was prepared to help Indonesia put out its forest fires.

He said the department had the assets and skills if it was called to help put out forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

For more haze updates from AsiaOne, click here: