United Nations Environment Programme welcomes tough stance on forest fires by Indonesian Government

NAIROBI/BANGKOK, 9 March 2000 - The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today expressed support for the Indonesian Government's rapid response to the forest fire emergency in Sumatra. UNEP's Asia-Pacific Regional Director Nirmal Andrews said he was concerned at the prospect of a repeat of the fires that caused months of choking haze throughout the South East Asia region in 1997 and 1998.

"The Indonesian Government's intention to summon logging and plantation company owners and to review their licenses is the kind of tough measures needed to pre- empt another crisis," said Andrews.

An early warning system, supported by UNEP as well as other regional agencies and governments, uses high resolution satellite imagery to detect specific land holdings where there are hotspots. It also allows the rapid and coordinated mobilisation of fire fighting teams to forest fire locations.

UNEP, under the leadership of its Executive Director Klaus Toepfer, has assisted with an action plan to combat fires at a provincial level.

Currently about 1200 fires have been detected on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan with pollution index readings over the 300 level, which is considered hazardous to health.

UNEP is also assisting with the development of a legal framework for the prevention of transboundary haze pollution with Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, and encourages further dialogue between governments and logging and plantation concessionaires.

For further information please contact: Tim Higham, Regional Information Officer, UNEP/ROAP, Bangkok, Thailand, tel: 662-288-2127, email:

In Nairobi, contact: Tore J. Brevik, UNEP Spokesman, on tel: 2-623292, or Robert Bisset, Office of the Spokesman/UNEP Media Unit on tel: 623084, fax: 623692, email: