Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ban on open burning in Southeast Asia

Zakaria Abdul Wahab in Bernama (Malaysia): A ministerial meeting on haze pollution in Southeast Asia on Wednesday agreed to ban all open burning in the region, in anticipation of the El Nino hot weather condition exacerbating in the last quarter of the year. The Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) on Transboundary Haze Pollution which met here, also agreed to suspend permits for prescribed burning activities in fire-prone areas such as in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Singapore's Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Yaacob Ibrahim told a media conference after the half-day meeting that MSC was concerned after the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre reported, the prevailing weak El Nino condition was forecast to intensify to a moderate to strong by the end of this year.

Saying the El Nino was likely to worsen and prolong the current dry spell in the region till October, he said the MSC expected there would be continued increase in hotspot activities in the fire-prone areas in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sarawak over the next few months. The MSC noted that this was likely to lead to more incidences of transboundary smoke haze pollution in the region, the minister said.

…In a separate statement, the MSC said the region experienced a sharp increase in the number of hotspots up to last Saturday, as compared to the same period in 2006 when the region last experienced severe smoke haze pollution. The ministers noted that while there had been sporadic incidences of air quality reaching unhealthy levels, the situation was still under control due to mitigation actions taken by MSC countries….

Sumatra ablaze in 2006. Actively burning fires marked in red, by NASA