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First transboundary air pollution agreement in 20 years

Geneva/Nairobi, 7 September 1999 - In a further effort to combat the recurring forest-fire/smog problem in South-East Asia, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in collaboration with the secretariat of ASEAN, the Association of South East Asian Nations, is helping to establish a legally binding agreement on transboundary haze pollution in the region. The ASEAN Agreement on Haze Pollution will be the first international treaty addressing transboundary air pollution outside of Europe.

Transboundary air pollution is high on the environmental agenda in many regions of the world, but, so far, an international legal agreement has only been established in Europe, where in 1979 the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution was adopted. This Convention provided a solid legal basis for cooperation among European States that has since been further developed through a number of important protocols dealing with the control of sulphur emissions, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants.

UNEP is now taking the lead in assisting other regions of the world, like South-East Asia, to build the necessary international legal frameworks to address the transboundary air pollution issue. The framework will be an important first step in putting into place agreed control measures for the release of air polluting substances.

"Environmental law is a key tool to ensure actions by individual States and an ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution may serve as a starting-point for developing a wider international legal regime to combat transboundary air pollution in the Asia-Pacific region," said Klaus Toepfer, UNEP Executive Director.

Last month there were forest fires in Sumatra, Borneo and some parts of Malaysia, and resulting haze in neighbouring countries. Now, however, the rains have put out most of the fires, but similar problems will likely be faced next year as normal or dry conditions associated with the El Nino phenomenon return to the region.

At the recent Ministerial Meeting on Haze in Singapore on 26 August, the ASEAN member-states thanked UNEP for its on- going help and asked the organization to continue to assist with the preparation and negotiation of the ASEAN Legal Framework on Transboundary Haze Pollution. Over the last year, UNEP has provided support to countries of the ASEAN region in areas of: aerial fire surveillance, early warning systems, public awareness, education and training.

Mr. Toepfer will be in Bangkok on 8 and 9 September to meet with the Thai Prime Minister and the Minister of Science, Technology and Environment. He will also give the keynote address at the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT).

For more information, contact:
Tore J. Brevik,
UNEP Spokesman and Director of Communications and Public Information
on tel: (+254-2) 623292, fax: 623692,
email: ,
Robert Bisset,
Office of the UNEP Spokesman
on tel: (+254-2-623084),

UNEP News Release 1999/99

Wednesday 08 Sep 1999
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