Singapore puts heat on Indonesia to take on haze situation

Singapore puts heat on Indonesia to take on haze situation

28 September 2011

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Indoneasia / ASEAN — The Singapore authorities have stepped up efforts to add peer and economic pressure on Indonesia, which is yet to sign the Asean Transboundary Haze Pollution agreement.

The nine other Asean nations have ratified the 2002 agreement to prevent and control haze pollution in the region.

To date, Singapore has collaborated with Indonesia in the province of Jambi to train officials and staff from non-governmental organisations in studying satellite photos.

This is so that they can identify plantations and companies responsible for forest fires.

Air- and weather-monitoring stations have also been set up to detect forest fires and smouldering peatland more efficiently.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said yesterday that Singapore has offered to extend the existing million-dollar project through several sub-projects in Jambi, as part of a second phase.

Jambi, located about 330km south of Singapore, is one of the provinces worst hit by forest fires this year.

Indonesia has yet to respond to Singapore’s offer.

While Singapore offers support by providing resources, the Indonesians have to be the ones to decide and take the lead, because “it is their province, their plantations, their agricultural centre”, said Dr Balakrishnan.

“There are lessons which have to be taught on the ground, as well as (having) to make sure that there is enough economic and social pressure on people taking a shortcut.”

Fires in Jambi and other Sumatran provinces have been faulted for the haze that envelops Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia each year.

Dr Balakrishnan, who has just returned from the Transboundary Haze Pollution meeting in Thailand, believes that “the strongest…stimulus to pro-social behaviour is peer pressure”.

He was speaking to the media at the launch of the Public Hygiene Council at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. Addressing hygiene issues here, he said that anti-social behaviour, such as littering, can also be curbed through exerting peer pressure.

The new council, which has 21 members, is headed by Khoo Teck Puat Hospital’s chief executive, Mr Liak Teng Lit.

The council’s main aim, said Mr Liak, is to stamp out unhygienic practices and raise standards here “up to the first-world standard”.

A National Environment Agency (NEA) survey led by one of the council members, Associate Professor Paulin Straughan, found that nearly four in 10 here would litter if they thought nobody was looking.

Prof Straughan, vice-dean of the National University of Singapore’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, said that NEA could leverage on the survey findings to reach out to “younger new citizens”.

The council also hopes to improve the cleanliness of public toilets, especially those in foodcourts and coffeeshops.

Discussion sessions, public forums and feedback channels will be set up, and a new educational campaign will be rolled out by the end of the year from the findings obtained.

Mr Liak said: “Every Singaporean needs to take ownership in building a clean Singapore. Only then can we say that we are First World and enjoy the place.”

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