The yearly appearance of haze has a wider impact on the Asean region.
With the economy projected to be sluggish, the haze could compound matters, resulting in lower economic activity.
The haze's negative impact is most felt by people in the haze zone region and to different degrees in various parts of the Asean region.
It takes a deep toll on the health of citizens and visitors; causes low productivity; damages the environment; hurts agricultural output; affects the safety of air, maritime and land transportation; and leads to tourists fleeing or avoiding the region.
Should the source of the haze not be contained, the economic losses could be in the billions of dollars.
As the hot spots spread across a large area, significant resources are needed to eliminate and contain further damage.
Hence, collective action is required by joint forces from Asean members, which may also consider involving international experts and resources.
To ensure that future large-scale haze does not resurface, there must be prevention and intervention strategies put in place.
Such strategies should comprise:
- Education: Land owners, residents, employees and companies should be taught what their responsibilities are in preventing and containing the damaging impact of uncontrolled fires.
- Legislation: Enforcement activities should be undertaken to bring the parties responsible for the haze to account for their actions.
Land/property owners should be the first to take action in containing fires that break out, with the various other agencies serving as a second line of defence and policing.
Enforcement agencies must also be armed with the right tools - such as drones and land-based detection systems - and be able to coordinate the deployment of firefighting resources.
Fighting the haze is in everyone's interest and Asean members must take collective action swiftly.
Ivan Ho Seng Cheng