ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution: The Indonesian Commitment

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Andika Putra, Intern staff at ASEAN Studies Center UGM

Indonesia has finally ratified the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (AATHP) on September 2014. After 12 years, the ratification was done following a discussion by a plenary session of the House of Representatives Attended by parliamentary members, as well as some Ministers.  The decision of the plenary session marked the beginning of a new stage in the Indonesian leadership for the prevention and control of land or forest fires at the ASEAN regional level[1]

As it known, transboundary haze pollution is considered one of the major problems in the ASEAN region. Moreover, Indonesia is one of the major sources of the haze pollution in the Southeast Asia. The pollution which is caused by human activities in burning land/forest for plantation and/or agriculture does not stopping at national borders only, but also causing transboundary pollution to the neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Singapore[2]. The origins of the Agreement trace back to the regional haze crisis of 1997. In that year, Southeast Asia faced an environmental catastrophe that led to “unprecedented health and financial damages” throughout the region[3].

Thus, the importance of Indonesia’s ratification can be seen in its willingness to officially join the regional effort to address the issue[4], by ratify this agreement Indonesia recognize the issue of haze pollution not only become the domestic issue, but also the ASEAN problem that have to be solved together in line with the other members. The benefits of ratification to Indonesia and ASEAN should be enough to overcome the haze pollution. These benefits include greater coordination among the parties in addressing the transboundary haze originating in Indonesia by facilitating the spread of information and by allowing Indonesia to shape the Agreement based on its experiences as the only major source state in the region. These benefits are not limited to the current problem; they will also apply in the future when other states become source states

Furthermore, through this ratification Indonesia show their commitment to solve the haze pollution. Even, the ratification of the Agreement may not eliminate the transboundary haze pollution immediately, because AATHP is only a legal framework for cooperation and does not address important technical issues. Ultimately, additional initiative is needed to determine how countries will work together to exchange information and expertise and it can bring all the stakeholders together to facilitate a more lasting solution than they would otherwise be able to reach on their own.

Now, all ASEAN members have ratified the AATHP. Thus, it is unlikely that the ratification will quickly lead to a mitigation of haze pollution. But at least all ASEAN member states have now officially agreed that haze pollution is not a domestic problem but, rather a regional problem that have to be solved together, and Indonesia has to put their concern on how to deal with the haze pollution, not only by ratify the AATHP, but also deal with their own domestic matter, such as law enforcement and other matter related to the solution of haze pollution.

[1]  Anonymous (2014, September 16). Indonesia ratifies ASEAN agreement on transboundary haze pollution. Retrieved April 28, 2016, from < agreement-on-transboundary-haze-pollution>
[2] Yordan Gunawan, “Transboundary Haze Pollution in the Perspective of International Law of State Responsibility”, Fakultas Hukum, Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta
[3] Jerger, David B. , Jr. “Indonesia’s Role in Realizing the Goals of ASEAN’s Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.” Sustainable Development Law & Policy 14, no. 1 (2014). p.40
[4] Heilmann, Daniel (2015), After Indonesia’s Ratification: The ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution and Its Effectiveness As a Regional Environmental Governance Tool, in: Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, 34, 3, 95–121
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