{News} 080524 Malaysia to train Indonesian farmers to avoid forest fires

Malaysia to train Indonesian farmers to avoid forest fires

The Associated Press , Kuala Lumpur Sat, 05/24/2008 4:11 PM World

Malaysia will advise Indonesian farmers on how to avoid starting forest fires when they clear land as part of efforts to curb the smoky cross-border haze released nearly every year, a news report said Saturday.

Malaysian Environment Minister Douglas Unggah Embas said his country will sign a pact with Indonesia next month to boost anti-haze cooperation, which will include training Indonesian farmers to practice controlled burning instead of slash-and-burn activities.

"We (will) either train Indonesians in their country or bring them here for training," Embas was quoted as saying by The Star newspaper.

Ministry officials who could comment on the issue were not immediately available. The report quoted Embas as saying that Malaysia expects to spend 2 million ringgit (US$620,000) to conduct the training.

Officials from both countries have warned people to brace for hazy pollution, especially between July and September, partly because of changing weather patterns.

Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand have complained since 1997 about haze drifting from Indonesia, where annual fires are started as part of seasonal land-clearing, especially on Sumatra island and in Kalimantan on Borneo island.

The smog causes health problems and losses amounting to billions of dollars (euros) from lost tourism revenue and flight delays, among other things.

Indonesia has argued it lacks the money and technical expertise to prevent or control the fires in the vast archipelago nation.

Officials have previously said Malaysia will also help Indonesia set up an early warning system for forest fires and boost land management.



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