The Singaporean Parliament has passed the 2014 Trans-boundary Haze Pollution Act , which will enable regulators to sue individuals or companies in neighboring countries that cause severe air pollution in Singapore through slash-and-burn agricultural practices.
The act was first proposed in 2013 after a huge rise in the number of forest fires on the neighboring Indonesian province of Riau spread smoke to Singapore, adding to the city-state’s pollution levels.
Global Director of Forestry Programs at the World Resources Institute (WRI), Nigel Sizer, said the trans-boundary haze pollution law signaled a new method in doing business for companies and governments that wished to reduce forest and peatland fires.
“Any companies that are caught illegally burning the forests will be dragged to a Singaporean court and their reputations will suffer along with it, as customers, banks and insurers will avoid doing business with these companies,” Sizer explained on Tuesday as quoted by Kontan.co.id.
According to Sizer, pinpointing the cause of fires and the resulting haze in Southeast Asia was a very complex problem. In the past few decades, fires have initially been started to clear land for agricultural expansion into forests and peatland areas.
“The highest concentration of fires originated from the Indonesian province of Riau in the past two years. It has caused health hazards, environmental destruction, not to mention economic damage [to Singapore],” he added.
Sizer noted further that the new law was a positive measure for companies and governments to curb the problem of forest fires, and that it highlighted the serious consequences that would be faced by those who violated the law. (dyl)