ASEAN has designated the year 2006 as ASEAN Environment Year (AEY) with the theme, “Biodiversity: Our Life, Our Future”.  The official launch of AEY 2006 was held at the Bogor Botanical Gardens, Bogor, Indonesia, on 18 May 2006 in conjunction with the 189th Anniversary of the Bogor Botanical Gardens.

The launch of AEY 2006 aims to raise people awareness of the region’s rich biodiversity, and strengthen regional cooperation and implementation of actions on environment conservation. It supports ASEAN’s commitment to achieve the goals of sustainable development envisaged in ASEAN Vision 2020 on the establishment of a ‘clean and green ASEAN’.

The State Minister for Environment of Indonesia, Rachmat Witoelar, along with the Minister for Environment and Water Resources of Singapore, Dr. Yaacob Ibrahim, planted a tree to commemorate the event. The ceremony was witnessed by Dr. Wilfrido Villacorta, Deputy Secretary-General, the ASEAN Secretariat (representing the Secretary-General of ASEAN), representatives of the Environment Ministries from the ASEAN Member Countries and several ASEAN ambassadors based in Jakarta.

Minister Rachmat Witoelar, in his message commemorating the AEY 2006, reiterated the importance of environment conservation, noting:

    “…however rich we are in biodiversity, if we cannot unravel its potential for poverty alleviation through food security and income generation, then our people are not going to appreciate what we have. It means that they will care less for the need for its conservation. Without proper conservation efforts, biodiversity will become a non-renewable resource such as oil or minerals. This in turn will certainly affect our well-being for the future.”

In his message, Dr. Yaacob Ibrahim, said that ASEAN has a firm commitment to conserve the regional environment:

    “…ASEAN has collectively placed great emphasis towards the ratification and implementation of the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution. Beyond demonstrating ASEAN’s resolve to create a haze-free environment, our joints efforts clearly illustrate ASEAN’s commitment to further strengthen the close co-operation that we have enjoyed as a region.”

Secretary-General of ASEAN, Ong Keng Yong, highlighted ASEAN’s efforts in nature conservation, in particular, the establishment of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) in Philippines in September 2005:

    “… the ACB will enhance ASEAN’s efforts in saving, studying, using and teaching about biodiversity…. there is just one earth for our life and our future. Let us treasure it and help ourselves to live well.”

The ASEAN region is well-known for its rich and unique biodiversity, where three of the seventeen mega bio-diverse countries in the world are located in the region, namely, Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines. Southeast Asia houses approximately 20 per cent of the world’s species despite only accounting for 3 per cent of the world’s land coverage. There are approximately 27,000 species that are endemic to the region.

ASEAN Environment Year is celebrated every three years with the aim of promoting environmental awareness at all levels of society; highlighting ASEAN’s environmental achievements; and strengthening partnerships among ASEAN Member Countries as well as the private sector, civil society and non-governmental organisations in addressing environmental challenges in the region. A series of activities and campaigns addressing the AEY 2006’s theme will be carried out in each ASEAN Member Country throughout this year.

An ASEAN-China Workshop on Botanical Garden Management & Plant Conservation and the 10th ASEAN Working Group on Multilateral Environmental Agreement (AWGMEA) are being held alongside the AEY launch at the Bogor Botanical Gardens. For the public, a four-day exhibition highlighting the value of biodiversity, in particular that of Indonesia, will be held from18 to 21 May 2006.

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Issued by:
The ASEAN Secretariat
18 May 2006

For media inquiries please contact:
Suchela Phachaiyapoom, Public Affairs Office, the ASEAN Secretariat, Tel + (62-21) 726 2991 ext. 420 or email: suchela@aseansec.org or the State Ministry of Environment, Deputy Assistant of Education and Communications, Indonesia, Tel 021 8517143 or e-mail: edukom@menlh.go.id