From: Associated Press
Published September 21, 2005 12:00 AM

Report Says ASEAN Environment Ministers To Hold Talks on Haze Next Week

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Southeast Asian environment ministers will talk next week in the Philippines about boosting regional cooperation to combat haze from forest fires, a perennial problem that smothered Indonesia and Malaysia last month, a news report said.


Singapore Environment Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, on a visit to Malaysia, said the meeting would focus on a regional agreement on fighting haze that was signed several years ago but never implemented, The Star newspaper reported.


"We want to make sure that the agreement comes into effect so that we can do something to mitigate the effects of haze, to help the countries affected and see how we can prevent it from happening," it quoted Yaacob as saying.


He did not give details of the agenda at the meeting of environment ministers from the 10 countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.


Government negligence, rampant development and illegal land clearing combined to spark massive fires in Indonesia in August that ravaged thousands of hectares (acres) of forest and covered parts of Malaysia in thick, noxious haze.


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The fires in the Indonesian province of Sumatra obscured skies and pushed pollution up to hazardous levels in several parts of Malaysia before downpours and shifting winds cleared the air.


During the area's midyear season the smoke blows from Sumatra into Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. This year's haze in Malaysia was the worst since 1997.


Malaysia has often accused Indonesia of doing little to curb the haze problem, while Indonesia accuses Malaysian-owned plantations in Indonesia for the problem.


Malaysian Environment Minister Adnan Satem said a long-term solution was needed to end the yearly haze, The Star reported. He did not elaborate. To date, Brunei, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam have ratified the regional agreement on haze.


The seven countries along with Indonesia, Cambodia and the Philippines make up ASEAN.


Source: Associated Press


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