Indonesia considering ratification of the Transboundary Haze Agreement

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Returning from the ASEAN regional forum, Indonesia is considering ratification of the Transboundary Haze Agreement. Getting Indonesia on-board and involved in the agreement could be a major step in getting problems that are related to transboundary haze under control.

With Indonesia being one of the major contributors to the problem, it is important to get their cooperation in mitigating the negative effects of transboundary haze. This will help to improve efforts to monitor and prevent haze, while also allowing for more effective action on the ground in areas where forest and land fires occur.

Much of the haze is generated by the use of slash and burn techniques that are employed to clear land for palm oil plantations. When these methods are used on a large scale, it puts tons of smoke into the air and then wind currents carry the haze to neighboring countries like Singapore and Malaysia. This haze then has a negative impact on the environment and the health of citizens in the affected regions.

The ASEAN Transboundary Haze Agreement was first signed in 2002 as an attempt to address the situation. It is a binding agreement that states that members must cooperate to develop methods to reduce and monitor haze and that member nations should also take the appropriate legal measures to prevent fires and haze within their own boundaries. Since then it has been ratified by nine ASEAN member states with many hoping that Indonesia will be the tenth.

One of the main points that may help Indonesia to sign on to the agreement is the fact that it does not include financial penalties as the result of transboundary haze. As a part of the agreement member states can’t take civil action against nations that are in compliance with the agreement. This means that Indonesia can possibly get assistance from fellow ASEAN members to help control the problem, without being subject to the risk of penalties.

Some critics of the agreement state that the lack of financial penalties and enforcement will hinder the ability to make significant changes and it has also been said that Indonesia has only a limited ability to enforce the necessary laws on the ground.