ASEAN works to respond to transboundary haze pollution hinh anh 1Volunteers taking on fires at Garung village in Pulang Pisau district, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. (Credit: Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry)

Jakarta (VNA) - The ASEAN Secretariat has hosted an online conference to strengthen efforts, coordination and preparation for tackling transboundary haze pollution, which is predicted to peak in August and September.

The event, funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)'s Measurable Action for Haze-Free Sustainable Land Management in Southeast Asia (MAHFSA) Programme, brought together representatives from haze management agencies and relevant bodies of ASEAN, as well as partners and private organisations.

In his speech, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Kung Phoak highlighted the potential threats and impacts of COVID-19 on forest fire and haze prevention and response due to resource constraints and limited mobility on intervention.

He called for strengthened cooperation between relevant agencies of ASEAN and the bloc’s partners, as well as preparedness and coordination for a concerted response of authorities, communities and private sector in the possible event of fire and transboundary haze pollution.
For his part, IFAD Country Director for South East Asia and the Pacific Sub-regional Office Cossio Cortez said IFAD has been supporting ASEAN in the implementation of the haze-free agenda for over a decade.

He further stressed that in the post-pandemic period, and in view of the upcoming dry season, ASEAN must continue join efforts to strengthen regional coordination aiming at promoting sustainable management of natural resources and protecting the health of people in the region.

During the seminar, representatives of ASEAN and Australia shared insights into the impacts and potential risks of the pandemic situation on ASEAN’s response to fire and haze events, as well as lessons learnt from the 2020 dry season in the Mekong River region and the bushfire crisis in Australia last year.

Participants emphasised the importance of cross-sectoral coordination by prioritising regional measures focused on strategies to implement health priorities, including regional prevention and control of new emerging infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

The event reaffirmed ASEAN’s efforts to secure a haze-free region as guided by the Roadmap in the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution framework; increase awareness of and preparedness for responding transboundary haze events within and across sectors and disciplines; and deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on fire and haze management, and the potential risk of post-pandemic pressure on peatland ecosystems./.