Experts sniff at ‘blow hot, blow cold’ approach to haze problem

Experts sniff at ‘blow hot, blow cold’ approach to haze problem

5 January 2007

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Souteast Asia — Now that rainy days have overtaken the hazy days, nobody is bothering about the haze problem anymore — at least, not until it becomes a problemagain.

That is partly why the haze problem is still here, 20 years after it first blew to our shores, said Mr Gurmit Singh, chairman of the Centre for Environment, Technology and Development (Malaysia). He was speaking at the Regional Outlook Forum yesterday organised by the Institute of Southeast AsianStudies.

“I’ve been observing the problem for the past 20 years, and it is getting worse each year. We wait for the haze to come, then we get very worked up about it, and then forget about it till it comesagain.

“Now that the media attention is no longer on the haze, no one is bothering about theproblem.”

This is despite the huge costs incurred in regional economies because of the haze. Experts estimate the cost to the Singapore economy last year at US$50 million ($76.7million).

In 1997-1998, the prolonged haze was estimated to have cost regional economies US$9 billion, prompting the proposal of the haze treaty among the Association of South-east Asian Nations, of which Indonesia is amember.

But University of Indonesia Professor Emil Salim, who chairs the Indonesian Economic Advisory Council, said Indonesia was not ratifying the haze treaty because of a lack of political will.

Echoing this, Mr Singh said: “The haze treaty is ineffectual. I see no paradigm shift. If nothing is done over the next two years, the quality of life in Singapore and the region will be affected, and it may deter people from coming here to work.”

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