Media Release: 5th Meeting of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution in the Mekong Sub-Region

20 August 2015, Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar —

  1. The Fifth Meeting of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution in the Mekong Sub-Region (MSC Mekong) was held on 20 August 2015 in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar and attended by Ministers/ representatives responsible for land and forest fires and haze from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam, and the Deputy Secretary-General for ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.
  2. The Ministers noted the ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre’s (ASMC) weather and smoke haze situation outlook of the Mekong sub-region for 2015. In the period of August until September, wet weather conditions in the northern ASEAN region is expected to keep hotspot activities generally subdued due to the Southwest Monsoon. Dry weather conditions are expected over the Mekong sub-region from around October onwards with the onset of the Inter and Northeast Monsoon, and this could contribute to an increase in hotspot activities in the region. ASMC has also predicted that there is a 90 per cent chance of the current moderate El Niño conditions to continue and prevail into early 2016 with possible strengthening of conditions. The MSC Mekong countries will continue to be vigilant and take additional preventive measures and immediate fire suppression in the event of any occurrence of transboundary haze in the coming months.
  3.  The Meeting discussed and shared various initiatives undertaken by the MSC Mekong countries to mitigate land and forest fires and to control smoke haze pollution during the dry season. Cambodia’s national action plan for haze control in the dry season includes protected areas and community-based mechanisms while continues to conduct annual fire fighters training of trainers and promote forest fire education and awareness to communities. Lao PDR started using automated ambient air quality monitoring stations in March 2014 and implements public awareness activities on forest fires and sustainable peatland management. Myanmar is developing a Forest Fire Prevention Plan in coordination with relevant ministries, local authority and community-based participation in fire protection by taking into account the possibility, type, time and condition of forest fire hazards. Thailand implements fire and haze prevention and control measures such as using GIS as a management tool, single command approach, open burning prevention and control, and cooperation with private sector, with best practices based on the royal initiatives; as well as implements the Air4ASEAN application for smart phone and tablet to allow quick access to haze situation in the ASEAN countries. Viet Nam implements annual forest fire control work plans at national and local levels and conducts forest fire control activities for monitoring, prevention, and mitigation, including using GIS as a management tool.
  4. The Ministers agreed to work towards achieving the target of hotspot reduction which was approved at the 4th MSC Mekong Meeting in 2014 in Vientiane, Lao PDR, i.e., reducing cumulative hotspot count not exceeding 75,000 hotspots (in line with 2008 situation) to be achieved by 2017, with a goal of returning to a cumulative hotspot count of 50,000 (in line with 2006 situation) by 2020. The Ministers tasked the TWG Mekong to strengthen regional cooperation and national efforts in achieving the revised targets by the agreed timeline through capacity building (supported by e.g., Singapore and Thailand) and development of the ASEAN Haze-Free Roadmap.
  5. The Ministers commended the significant achievements made through the local, national and regional activities under the 5-year ASEAN Peatland Forests Project (APFP), which was funded by Global Environment Facility (2009-2014) through International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and implemented by ASEAN Member States in coordination with ASEAN Secretariat and Global Environment Centre. The Ministers also commended the good progress being made under the EU-supported SEApeat Project (2011-2015), which has supplemented support for the APFP and expanded activities to the northern ASEAN Member States. Together, APFP and SEApeat projects have demonstrated the value of integrated peatland management and engagement of local communities and the private sector as well as enhancing peatland fire prevention and warning.
  6. The Meeting noted the substantive progress of the development of the successor ASEAN Programme on Sustainable Management of Peatland Ecosystems – APSMPE (2014-2020), and the encouraging response and support from ASEAN dialogue and development partners. The Ministers renewed their commitment to implement this regional Programme through ASEAN mechanisms, enhanced national level efforts and multi-stakeholder partnership.
  7. The Ministers recognized the need to develop a Roadmap on ASEAN Cooperation for Transboundary Haze Pollution Control with Means of Implementation towards a vision of Haze-free ASEAN. The Ministers welcomed Thailand’s offer to host a workshop next year to draft the Roadmap with a view to promote the sharing of experiences and lessons learned, enhance institutional capacities, human resources development and technology transfer.
  8.  The Meeting expressed their appreciation to the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar for hosting the 5th MSC Mekong Meeting and the excellent arrangements made and generous hospitality provided.
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