ASEAN cooperation to address transboundary haze amid pandemic
Forest fires are a major source of transboundary haze in the ASEAN region. It is particularly pronounced in the dry season during the first half of the year for the Mekong subregion and second half of the year, most notably from July to September, for the southern ASEAN region.
The ASEAN region contains over half of the world’s peatland, a valuable ecosystem critical for preserving global biodiversity and storing carbon. However, peat soils, which are rich in organic matter, are vulnerable to fires. These fires create toxic smoke that covers large areas of the region, poses serious health hazards and emits tons of greenhouse gases.
In 2019, the region experienced prolonged drier-than-normal conditions, which led to the significant increase of hot spots, deterioration of air quality and widespread haze over many parts of the ASEAN region. The ASEAN ministers in charge of transboundary haze pollution expressed concerns over the severity and geographical spread of the haze affecting various ASEAN countries.