PUTRAJAYA, MALAYSIA - Malaysia will help train Indonesian farmers on controlled burning to alleviate haze-related problems affecting the region.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Douglas Uggah Embas said Malaysia had the expertise, as its farmers had been practising zero or controlled burning of crops.
'We either train Indonesians in their country or bring them here for training,' he told reporters here yesterday, adding that RM2mil has been set aside for the purpose.
A Memorandum of Understanding is expected to be signed next month to help Indonesia reduce the number of hotspots in the Riau area in Sumatra, which number about 300.
Malaysia has far fewer hotspots, Embas said, adding that action must be taken now that dry weather is predicted until October.
He said only padi farmers were allowed to conduct open burning, and limited to the harvest season.
Others found engaging in open burning would face a maximum fine of RM500,000 or jail term of five years, or both, under the Environment Quality Act 1974.
Embas said the ministries concerned met last week to map out precautionary measures for drought, haze and health problems like conjunctivitis and upper respiratory tract infections.
'All surveillance and enforcement mechanisms are being prepared by the relevant agencies, including the air force, Drainage and Irrigation, Agriculture, Environment and Fire and Rescue services,' he said.
Embas said Indonesia had yet to ratify the Asean Transboundary Haze Agreement, but added that it was the country's prerogative as a sovereign nation.