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SIIA Haze Roundtable 2014: Going Beyond Politics: Facilitating Ground up Initiatives

07 Nov SIIA Haze Roundtable 2014: Going Beyond Politics: Facilitating Ground up Initiatives

The haze has returned to Singapore and Malaysia in recent months as dense smoke from forest and peatland fires continue to disrupt lives in Indonesia. Why does the problem persist despite tougher enforcement and stepped-up fire prevention efforts in Indonesia? Will Singapore’s Transboundary Haze Pollution Act and Indonesia’s ratification of the ASEAN haze agreement bring about real progress in our collective bid to stop the haze?

On November 6, the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) gathered some 40 academics, corporate and NGO representatives from Indonesia and Malaysia in Singapore to discuss these issues at the SIIA’s Haze Roundtable titled “Beyond Awareness: Growing Ground-up Initiatives”. The institute has acted as a convener of regional dialogues on the issue of transboundary haze since 1997.

Below are excerpts from media coverage of the Haze Roundtable.

Photo Credit: The Borneo Post

Major haze episodes in region ‘likely to be more frequent’ [TODAY, 7 Nov 2014]

By Neo Chai Chin

SINGAPORE — Major haze events in South-east Asia are expected to be increasingly frequent due to ongoing deforestation of peatlands in Indonesia and extreme air pollution episodes are no longer restricted to drought years.

These are the conclusions of recent research led by a scientist from the Centre for International Forestry Research, who yesterday said peatlands and overlapping claims to land ownership in Indonesia were factors behind the haze problem. Peatlands are wetlands consisting of partially decayed vegetation matter that release vast amounts of carbon when drained and burnt.

Dr David Gaveau was among 40 non-governmental and corporate representatives, as well as academics, who took part in the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) think-tank’s Haze Roundtable event.

Roundtable participants yesterday noted other factors hampering solutions to the haze problem. Communities in Malaysia and Indonesia sometimes had only peatlands to farm on and some local government policies in Indonesia encourage the exploitation and conversion of forests. Awareness should be raised among individual farmers and they should be provided with alternatives for land clearance, participants said.

On the national level, they largely welcomed Indonesia’s Parliament agreeing in September to ratify the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

On its part, Singapore could take a leaf from European countries and pledge to import only sustainable palm oil, one suggested.

Singapore’s haze bill leaves oil palm industry in flutter [The Borneo Post, 7 Nov 2014]

By Peter Sibon

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s Transboundary Haze Pollution Bill which was passed last August will have a major implication on the palm oil industry in Malaysia as the island republic is a major hub for both trade and finance in the region.

However, if the major players in Malaysia abide by the global guidelines of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), then it should not be duly worried.

“The possibility of our palm oil players is there and I am surprised that our government has not come up with any statement regarding the matter,” chairman of the Centre for Environment Technology and Development, Malaysia (CETDEM) Gurmit Singh told The Borneo Post here yesterday.

According to Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) deputy director Chua Chin Wei any palm oil company which contributed to the haze affecting Singapore is liable to be fined up to S$2 million.

“With this bill we want to be ready to take action when there is evidence. This includes extra territorial cases involving other countries as long as they have dealings with us, we can prosecute them,” he warned.

Research Fellow of the Centre of Excellence for Renewable Energy (CoERE) of Unimas Prof Dr Alexander Sayok opined that major oil palm players in Sarawak should be more careful now as Singapore is known for stern implementation of its laws.

“The issue is not just about contributing to haze problem in Singapore and be liable to be prosecuted there as this is a negative approach. Instead they must look at the sustainability of the industry,” he said.

WWF Policy Manager for Sarawak Dr Jason Hon agreed that Singapore’s Transboundary Haze Pollution Bill had far reaching ramifications on the region.