This article, by Neo Chai Chin, appeared in TODAY (Singapore) newspaper on 28 October 2010.
People around the region - who experienced unhealthy levels of haze last week - may feel that reforms are not being made fast enough to deal with the problem, but change is happening in the right direction, according to experts at a discussion yesterday.
And they believe multi-level cooperation should continue.
"One of the improvements over the last three to five years is there are more groups working ground-to-ground ... trying to address the forest fires, the land fires - especially peat land - so really, we have to see whether this patchwork of different experiments can be knitted together to improve the situation," said Associate Professor Simon Tay, chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.
For instance, the World Wide Fund for Nature is working with Indonesian non-government organisations to assess forest conservation, he said.
Speaking to the media later, Assoc Prof Tay cautioned against fatalism after Singapore saw its worst haze since 2006. "The directional signs are getting better. Governments are making efforts. Companies are making efforts. Consumers elsewhere are making efforts."
On another issue, the discussion noted that Singaporean consumers should push for more transparency from companies in labelling of products - like their European counterparts have done, he said. Although the local market is small, consumers here could ask companies to follow the practice in Europe to label products which are sustainably produced.
The 20 or so participants - who included a corporate representative from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil called for companies to be "more public about their good record, therefore those who keep quiet, we can assume they're not so good".
But it is crucial for consumers to make themselves heard. "Why should these companies give an answer when no one's asking a question?" asked Assoc Prof Tay.