To end the haze problem, both penalties and cooperation are needed
The Singapore Government’s move this week to penalise companies that cause haze is timely, given that fires are currently burning in Riau and Kalimantan. But the proposed laws are more than a symbol or knee-jerk reaction.
The draft Transboundary Haze Pollution Bill, if passed, will allow criminal charges as well as civilian claims for damages to be brought before a court in Singapore — even if the fires occur elsewhere. The Republic has usually punished actions overseas only for severe crimes, such as corrupt acts or illegal sex with minors.
Applying Singapore law to the haze can be an important pillar in the effort to address the region’s recurring environmental problem.
Last year, the haze reached record highs in Singapore and parts of Malaysia. There was frustration that monitoring and enforcement against fires remain difficult in Indonesian provinces.
When regional ministers for the environment met, differences also emerged about releasing maps that could identify the culprits. Several retorted that a number of the implicated companies are headquartered in Singapore or Malaysia.
The Bill shows that the Singapore Government is willing to take action where it can.
WHAT THE BILL CAN AND CAN’T DO
Responsibility is placed on any entity not to cause or contribute to haze pollution in Singapore, whether directly or through companies that it manages. An individual company officer can also be held personally responsible.