Multilateral Actions Needed in Handling Haze Issue - Plantation ExpertsWhile continuous efforts have been made to address the occurrence of haze by multiple stakeholders from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, plantation experts believe that multilateral actions in handling the pollution are crucial.
During a webinar hosted by Sime Darby Plantation Bhd (SDP), Environment and Water Ministry deputy secretary-general (environmental management) Dr Nagulendran Kangayatkarasu said there should be more dialogue and activities to create awareness among the private sector, communities and non-governmental organisations to talk in an open manner to seek solutions.
He also said that the Asean haze issue needed more international intervention and more funding as the haze had a global impact.
“We have the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (ATHP) in which all the 10 members have ratified, and it is a very important platform for us to work on the issue as we have the principle that we do not intervene in each other's domestic affairs.
“But it is nevertheless a very important platform for the 10 member countries to sit down and discuss as well as garner international support so it should remain and continue to function,” he said.
However, Nagulendran raised concern that there are countries that are still taking unilateral actions such as coming up with their own cross-boundary haze pollution act.
He noted that Malaysia had decided not to come up with such kind of solution because it intervened with the sovereignty of other countries.
“I think the fundamental issue that we need to discuss here is cooperation, working together if there’s a haze episode, which we hope do not happen,” he stressed.
He added that the 1997 Southeast Asian haze was the biggest air quality disaster; yet countries had come forward to work together.
“It was international cooperation. We have the Japanese coming in, Canadians, Malaysians and Indonesians working very well, and our firefighters went over to Indonesia to help put out the fire. That kind of spirit and collaboration needs to resurface and I think that’s the way forward,” he explained.
He also said that technological intervention could also play a big role as one of the solutions.
Meanwhile, another panellist, Indonesian Palm Oil Association chairman Joko Supriyono, said based on the country’s fire report data, the Indonesian fire alerts by land-use area (2015-2019) were coming from outside the concession areas.
For 2019, 68 per cent of the fire alerts by land-use area in Indonesia came from outside the concessions, followed by pulpwood plantations (15 percent), palm oil concessions (11 percent) and logging concessions (five percent).
Commenting on this, SDP chief sustainable officer Simon Lord said although palm oil concessions only accounted for 11 percent, the stakeholders must still be responsible and take charge.
“We need to solve all these problems and we can’t do it alone so there is a call here to follow along the lines of the Roundtable Sustainable Palm Oil and to collaborate with the industry as well as with the government.
“We need to step up our game. We have heard some solutions but we really haven’t got the solution to resolve the haze issue, and a series of different actions need to be taken.
“Clearing land by fire is just wrong and it is unsustainable,” he said.
For years, the Southeast Asia region has been battling haze, especially during the dry weather season, and continuous efforts have been made to reduce hot spots and open burning.