1. The Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution in the Mekong Sub-Region (MSC Mekong) convened for the first time on 25 February 2011 in Krabi, Thailand, attended by Environment Ministers/representatives from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam and Deputy Secretary-General for ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community. The MSC Mekong was endorsed by the Sixth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-6) to the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution in October 2010.
2. The objective of the MSC Mekong is to oversee programmes and activities to enhance cooperation among ASEAN Member States in the Mekong Sub-Region on fire and haze pollution control, following the successful experiences of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee in the southern ASEAN region. The Ministers adopted the proposals to build up capabilities for fire suppression and to enhance bilateral collaboration among the MSC Mekong countries, and to participate in the ASEAN-wide Fire Danger Rating System, the Regional Haze Training Network and in resource mobilisation.
3. The Meeting noted the ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre’s (ASMC’s) weather outlook of wet weather interspersed with periods of dry condition for the next few months. With the possibility of the prevailing La Nina weakening to neutral conditions in the second half of the year, wetter weather conditions are expected with the start of the traditional rainy season around June 2011. While hotspot activities are mostly subdued due to the wet weather conditions, sporadic outbreaks can be expected during short occasional dry spells. The MSC Mekong countries agreed to continue to be vigilant and to prevent and mitigate land and forest fires during periods of dry weather.
4. The Meeting discussed various initiatives to mitigate land and forest fires and to control smoke haze pollution. The Meeting endorsed and agreed to work towards a sub-regional target of (i) reducing cumulative hotspot count not exceeding 75,000 hotspots (based on 2008 data) to be achieved by 2011; and (ii) reducing cumulative hotspot count not exceeding 50,000 hotspots (based on 2006 data) to be achieved by 2015. The individual MSC Mekong countries agreed to set their respective national targets for hotspot count reduction in order to achieve the sub-regional targets.
5. The Meeting agreed to strengthen the capacity of MSC Mekong countries to monitor air quality in particular PM10, including installation of air quality monitoring stations and provision of hands-on training, which will enable improved fire and haze monitoring as required in the ASEAN Haze Agreement.
6. In this respect, the Meeting expressed their appreciation to Thailand for mobilising their mobile air quality monitoring units to Lao PDR and Myanmar during the dry season of 2010 and its commitment to provide such cooperation in 2011. The Meeting also noted the approved bilateral project between Thailand and Lao PDR, which includes the installation of one fully equipped air quality monitoring station and one PM10 high volume air sampler in Lao PDR by Thailand.
7. The Meeting noted the good progress of the ASEAN Peatland Forests Project (APFP), which aims to promote the sustainable management of peatlands in ASEAN to sustain local livelihoods, reduce the risk of fires and associated haze and contribute to global environmental management. The Ministers also acknowledged the recently approved grant from the European Commission that would enable site-level work on peatland areas and capacity building on peatland management for the Mekong countries. The Meeting also supported the efforts to develop a proposal titled “Transboundary Haze and GHG Emissions Reduction through Land/Forest Fire Reduction in Northern ASEAN” for funding support from the Global Environment Facility.
8. The Meeting expressed their appreciation to the Government of Thailand for organising the 1st MSC Mekong Meeting and the excellent arrangements made and hospitality provided.