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Haze: Breakthrough in map sharing efforts with Indonesia unlikely

The haze in Singapore on June 17, 2013. Photo: Ooi Boon Keong

The haze in Singapore on June 17, 2013. Photo: Ooi Boon Keong

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BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — Legal and operational difficulties stand in the way of a breakthrough by Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) environment ministers to get Indonesia to share its concession maps to combat transboundary haze, said Indonesian officials who spoke on condition of anonymity yesterday.

There is currently no reference map to produce or verify the accuracy of existing concession maps, said the officials who attended a technical working group meeting, ahead of today’s 16th Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee meeting on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

The S$100,000-haze monitoring system, which Singapore developed, uses hot-spot data and satellite images to pinpoint illegal burning activities. However, it requires accurate concession maps that can specify the companies or entities with rights to carry out logging or plantation activities on a particular piece of land.

Indonesia is in the midst of developing a larger-scale reference map that can then be used to draw up concession maps, an Indonesian official told reporters yesterday. This reference map is expected to be ready by the end of the year. “Perhaps we can talk about it again next year,” he added.

A delegate from Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said the country is prohibited from sharing its concession maps under the law. He said Indonesia’s Parliament is set to ratify the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution by October.

The Steering Committee, comprising Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, is meeting today in Brunei’s capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, to discuss the implementation of the haze monitoring system, among other haze-prevention measures.

Singapore’s delegation is led by Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

A joint statement is expected after the meeting, which comes as concerns that the prolonged dry weather the region has been experiencing may lead to an earlier and more severe bout of transboundary haze this year.

The possibility of El Nino, a weather phenomenon characterised by dry weather, kicking in this year was also raised by the ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre during yesterday’s meeting.

It put the likelihood of El Nino occurring at 60 per cent.

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