Update October 2006

"There can no great smoke arise, but there must be some fire"

Euphues and his Euphœbus, page 153.

It's that time of the year again, when the politicians, environmentalist, you name it, start screaming at the senseless burning which is creating "haze-oc" (haze havoc) in this region. Different people shouting but same problem!

Since 1997, basically nothing has changed. We can almost say come August-October it is hazy season in this region.

I have been a keen follower of the haze in this region since 1997, see (http://www.vadscorner.com/haze.html) the haze web site. What has happened to the "Regional Haze Action Plan"?* The primary objectives of which were...

  1. to prevent land and forest fires through better management policies and enforcement;
  2. to establish operational mechanisms to monitor land and forest fires; and
  3. to strengthen regional land and forest fire-fighting capability and other mitigating measures.

* The Regional Haze Action Plan was endorsed by the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Haze (AMMH) in December 1997.

The ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution was signed by ASEAN Member Countries on 10 June 2002 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Agreement contains provisions on monitoring, assessment and prevention, technical cooperation and scientific research, mechanisms for coordination, lines of communication, and simplified customs and immigration procedures for disaster relief. The Agreement also provides for the establishment of an ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Transboundary Haze Pollution Control. The Agreement entered into force on 25 November 2003. There is no mention whether Indonesia rectified this agreement.

If we cannot tackle the haze problem with our neighbours, I shudder to think of the potentially greater threat we face with a possible outbreak of a deadly avian flu virus from here. A mechanism must be worked out for the greater good of the region.

Tsunami is a natural disaster, but the current haze is a man made disaster. Are we addressing this issue on a cyclical trend? A wake up call only when it gets hazy? Can we sue our neighbour for compensation? They can recover this from the perpetrators of this act. Then probably we will see some results.

One thing I am glad for is the release of the API (Air Pollution Index). I still cannot imagine that we were in denial for so long before that. So credit to the government for maintaining the release of the API!

My last article was just over a year ago, and among my suggestion was the possibility of having the "World Largest Waterbomber" . Maybe we could have a couple in this region to have a quick global/local response action in putting out fires.

Will it work? I don't know but I sure would like to try.

Before I sign off, read an interesting document - "The Impacts of Transboundary Haze Pollution of the 1997/98 Fires Episode on Health". A collaboration between University Putra  (UPM) and Global Change Impacts Centre for Southeast Asia (IC-SEA).

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