Friday, 25 September 2015

Long reach of Haze

Singapore's anti-haze law needs more bite, say experts
Cable cars shrouded in smog at Mount Faber, Singapore. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

The seriousness of out-of-control burning activities in Indonesia continues to be felt in the region despite efforts to put out fires.

Experts say more must be done to punish offenders, or the haze problem will not go away.

Among their suggestions are harsher fines, rewards for informants, more policing and closer cooperation among the authorities.


Singapore clamps down on five firms over haze
Legal action started; govt leaders also speak out against Indonesian officials' comments

In its toughest anti-haze measure yet, Singapore has begun legal action against five companies it believes are among the culprits behind Indonesia's polluting fires.

It has also slammed statements from Indonesian officials over the crisis that forced the Republic to close schools yesterday when air quality became hazardous.

Naming the firms for the first time yesterday, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan stressed that the haze was a man-made problem that should not be tolerated. "Ultimately, errant companies must know that there is a price to be paid for damaging our health, environment and economy," he said.

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Singapore Transboundary Haze Law: We Didn’t Start the Fire. It Was Always Burning.

If only it was that simple.

And it is not just the palm oil industry. After all, according to a blog post on Forest News written by Bruno Vander Velde points out, only about 20 per cent of the land on which burning took place in the June 2013 fires were palm oil plantations.

Tracking who might be responsible for a peat fire which has spread might also prove difficult.Peat fires can smoulder for a long time after being ignited.  In dry months, they can burn for months underground. And guess what, it could have been worse.

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Indonesia pledges 29% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030
Indonesian police spray water on a peatland fire in Kampar, Riau province on the Indonesian island of Sumatra on Sept 20, 2015. As the PSI reading deteriorated to a 2015 high on Thursday night, Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam hit out at some Indonesian officials for apparently failing to take the situation seriously enough. PHOTO: REUTERS

Indonesia pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 29 per cent from projected levels in 2030, adding to commitments from the US, European Union, China and other nations toward a global agreement to fight climate change.

The world's fifth-biggest emitter will step up its efforts even more, to a 41 per cent cut versus a so-called business-as- usual trajectory, if it receives technological and financial support from developed nations, the country said Thursday in a submission to the United Nations. Its pledge outlines a plan to reduce deforestation and to get at least 23 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.

"Indonesia's national commitment is encouraging and demonstrates the country's seriousness to address this complex global challenge," Nirarta Samadhi, Country Director of World Resources Institute Indonesia, said in an e-mailed statement. "The commitment to include ecosystem management and landscape restoration could considerably shrink the forested country's carbon footprint if implemented effectively."

related: Indonesian officials' disregard for haze hazard 'shocking', says Shanmugam

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Indonesia VP Kalla reiterates that Indonesia does not need to apologise to neighbours over haze
Mr Kalla made similar remarks between 2005 and 2007 when he was vice-president to then President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.PHOTO: THE JAKARTA POST

Indonesia's Vice-President Jusuf Kalla has reiterated that Indonesia need not apologise to neighbouring countries over haze from forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Indonesia only needs to ensure forest fires that cause haze do not recur, he was quoted as saying on Indonesian news site kompas.com.

"Look at how long they have enjoyed fresh air from our green environment and forests when there were no fires. Could be months. Are they grateful? But when forest fires occur, a month at the most, haze pollutes their regions. So why should there be an apology?" he said during a dialogue session with Indonesians in New York at the Indonesian Consulate-General on Thursday.

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Shocking statements from “senior people” in Indonesian gov’t: Shanmugam

Singapore’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, K Shanmugam, has slammed some “senior people in government” in Indonesia for statements made about the current haze situation.

Writing on his Facebook page on Thursday, when the air quality in Singapore crossed into the hazardous zone for the first time in recent weeks, Mr Shanmugam said while the Indonesia government said it was taking steps to deal with the situation, “at the same time, we are hearing some shocking statements” from the authorities there. Mr Shanmugam, who is also Minister of Law, said these statements were made “at senior levels, from Indonesia, with a complete disregard for our people, and their own – PSI levels in parts of Indonesia are at almost 2,000.”

“How is it possible for senior people in government to issue such statements, without any regard for their people, or ours, and without any embarrassment, or sense of responsibility?” he asked, without specifying the statements that he was referring to.

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Indonesian Vice-President unapologetic over haze

Indonesia’s Vice-President Jusuf Kalla damaged international relations on Thursday (Sep 24) by being publicly unapologetic over the serious air pollution caused by forest burning in his country. In a dialogue session with Indonesians living in New York, the VP said that countries like Singapore and Malaysia have been “enjoying fresh air” from Indonesia and questioned if they have been grateful for that:
“”Look at how long they have enjoyed fresh air from our green environment and forests when there were no fires. Could be months. Are they grateful? But when forest fires occur, a month at the most, haze pollutes their regions. So why should there be an apology?”
Jusuf Lalla also added that Singapore and Malaysia companies are paying Indonesian locals to clear land using the burning method. The Indonesian VP also blamed several foreign companies who “taught” Indonesian companies how to burn the forest:
“They taught us to destroy forests. As a result, using development as an excuse, our forests were felled. Our peatlands were opened up. Wet peatlands dried up, making them easier to burn”
The haze in Singapore has caused schools to close down for a day and severe health concerns among Singaporeans. The Indonesian government has declined offers from Singapore to help put out the fire as they believe they are capable of managing the crisis. Forest burning in Indonesia is a yearly affair as farmers find it cheaper and more efficient to set acres of trees on fire than to cut them down.

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Indonesia should not have to apologise for the haze, says VP Kalla again

Indonesia should not have to apologise to its neighbours for the haze, Vice President Jusuf Kalla reportedly told Indonesians yesterday (Sept 24).

In a near repeat of a statement he had made in March this year, Mr Kalla reportedly said that Indonesia’s neighbours should be thankful for the months of fresh air that the nation’s forests bring.

The Indonesian news site Kompas quoted Mr Kalla as telling a group of Indonesians at a dialogue session at the Indonesian Consulate General in New York: “How many months do you think everybody (our neighbours) enjoys the fresh air from our green environment and our forests when there are no fires? It could be months. Are they thankful? But when forest fires occur, it at most lasts for a month, the haze pollutes their territories. So why should we apologise?”

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Indonesia's Vice-President Jusuf Kalla criticises neighbours for grumbling about haze
"Singapore shouldn't be like children, in such a tizzy,"

Cabinets may change but Indonesian leaders remain touchy when it comes to the haze brought on by forest fires.

Yesterday, in an echo of seasons past, Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla rapped neighbouring countries for complaining about the haze, and asked them instead to be grateful for the clean air they enjoy for the rest of the year.

Jakarta Globe quoted him as saying on Tuesday:
"For 11 months, they enjoyed nice air from Indonesia and they never thanked us. They have suffered because of the haze for one month and they get upset."
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Indonesia, Singapore trade barbs over haze

Indonesian officials had shown "a complete disregard for our people, and their own" in their handling of the fires, Singapore Foreign and Law Minister K Shanmugam said in a Facebook post last week.

Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla on Sunday urged Singapore to act on its offer to help fight the fires.

"Singapore can join and see for themselves. Don't just talk," Kalla was quoted as saying by Antara during a visit to New York.

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A hazy future

What infuriates Singaporeans is the insistence of Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla that Indonesia need not apologize to its neighbors for the haze. Schools called off classes last Friday here in Singapore. Haze pollution level rose to a health threatening level last Thursday evening.

An article in The Diplomat observed that “even if Indonesia agrees to further anti-burning measures or name-and-shame efforts against blameworthy firms, such policies stand little chance of being effectively implemented.”

The Diplomat pointed out that “As history indicates, many Indonesian legislative actions – addressing everything from corruption to pollution – have failed to generate substantive change. The same would likely happen to haze management legislation.”

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Merlion and Garuda

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong yesterday wrote a post on Facebook directed at Indonesia and the haze crisis.

"Merlion is mythical like the Garuda and will not be affected by the haze. But we humans will be, not just now but also in the long term if haze continues year after year," he said. The Merlion and Garuda are associated with Singapore and Indonesia respectively.

"If Indonesia can stamp out illegal burning, they will gain investor confidence in their abilities to tackle other complex challenges. The haze is their litmus test for effective administration and regional leadership. We all see it, breathe it; and there is no hiding."

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Singapore haze reach 313 PSI, Government faulted for inaction

As Singapore haze worsen and at one point reach 313 on the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) due to severe forest fire in Indonesia Sumatra, the Singapore government is also under fire for inaction. Today’s air pollution in Singapore has been the worst ever since its peak of 401 in July 2013, the Singapore government has been totally silent on their counter measures internationally and domestically.

Ministry of Environment Vivian Balakrishnan avoided media address and pushed his National Environment Agency to front the handling of the haze crisis. Foreign Minister K Shanmugam has earlier thrown in the white towel recently saying that there is only so much he can do. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has also been exceptionally silent on the air quality issue despite having the opportunity to address the public on several occasions.

As Singapore’s air quality hit “very unhealthy range” above 300 PSI, there remains no stop work order from the Ministry of Manpower. The Singapore Government’s NEA has at best given advisory notice calling for pregnant women, children and elderly to not spend too much time outdoor.

related:
Singapore Ministers convey emergency press release over haze last night
Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say: Continue working in this haze
K Shanmugam: There is only so much I can do over the haze
PM Lee Hsien Loong: There is no national shut-down of work

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Haze set to last till November as El Nino stretches dry spell

The haze, a result of forest fires in parts of Indonesia, is set to remain until November, due in part to the dry spell caused by the El Nino effect said to be among the strongest since records were kept in 1950.

Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) said that it will need not only more boots on the ground to fight the fires, but also more money to deal with the crisis.

"The number of forest and land fires still has the potential to rise until end-November," said BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho during a press briefing yesterday.

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MOE to close schools but for the adults and teenagers, it is business as usual

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) announced that there is no national shut-down of workplaces tomorrow.

All Junior Colleges, Centralised Institute and Post-Education Institutes (PSEIs), namely the Autonomous Universities, Polytechnics and ITEs, will remain open.

The People’s Association (PA) grassroots organisations will also start distributing N95 masks tomorrow from 10am at 108 Community Clubs island-wide. These masks will be given to vulnerable and needy Singaporeans/Singapore Permanent Residents who hold the blue CHAS card, Pioneer Generation card, and are ComCare recipients

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No national shutdown of work

The air quality worsened into the “very unhealthy” range today. The PSI for the next 24 hours is expected to remain “very unhealthy”, and may even go into the “hazardous” range.

This is why we are closing all primary and secondary schools tomorrow. We are also giving out N95 masks to vulnerable and needy Singaporeans at community clubs from 10am to 10pm tomorrow. Those who are eligible include: blue CHAS card holders; Pioneer Generation card holders; ComCare recipients above 62 years old; and ComCare recipients with long-term medical issues. Volunteers will visit residents who are unable to go to the CCs on their own.

There is no national shutdown of work, but employers should not compromise on the health and safety of their employees, especially those working outdoors.

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Pollution worsens in Singapore amid Indonesia forest fires

According to data from Singapore's National Environment Agency (NEA), the 24- hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) was 215-263, moving entirely into the very unhealthy range at 8:00 p.m. local time on Thursday.

The haze forecast for September 25, Friday is expected to remain in the Very Unhealthy range, and the possibility of the air quality going into the Hazardous range can not be excluded, added the NEA.

Teachers, however, will still need to go to school to supervise students whose parents are not able to make alternative arrangements for them.


Haze Condition Worsens, Schools to Close Tomorrow

The haze situation in Singapore has worsened today, with the 24-hour PSI crossing into the Very Unhealthy range since 10am this morning. Denser haze from Sumatra continues to be blown in by the prevailing southerly winds. As at 9pm today, the 24-hr PSI was 219-270, in the Very Unhealthy range, and the 1-hr PM2.5 was 221-321µg/m3. This is the highest 24-hr PSI recorded in 2015.

The persisting haze over central and southern Sumatra has continued spreading to the surrounding region, with the denser part of the haze observed to the south of Singapore (Please refer to Annex A for today’s satellite picture). For the rest of today, the current hazy conditions are expected to persist and could further deteriorate.

For tomorrow, the prevailing winds are forecast to blow from the south-southeast or south-southwest, and hazy conditions can still be expected. The 24-hr PSI for the next 24 hours is expected to be in the Very Unhealthy range, and the possibility of the air quality going into the Hazardous range cannot be excluded.


Haze reduces Singapore air quality to 'very unhealthy' level

As a result, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has announced closure of all primary and secondary schools on Friday, September 25.

At a technical media briefing on Thursday evening, Minister Heng said the decision that schools will be closed on Friday was made as a precaution. Muslims heading towards Al-Mawaddah Mosque in Compassvale Bow, Sengkang, around 7am on Hari Raya Haji yesterday amid the haze.

People having a dip at Stulang in Johor Baru during the holiday yesterday despite the haze which partly obscured the Berjaya Waterfront Hotel in the background. "We stand ready to assist Indonesia in combatting the fires", he said.


Haze situation turns grim in Kalimantan and 
Indonesian Muslims performing prayers marking Hari Raya Haji yesterday amid the worsening haze from forest fires, in Palembang, South Sumatra province, yesterday. BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said yesterday that 2,081 hot spots were recorded in Kalimantan in the morning, of which 1,508 fires were concentrated in the central region.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

The haze crisis continued to intensify yesterday with conditions in Kalimantan and Sumatra reaching alarming levels, and no respite for the two Indonesian regions on the Muslim holiday of Hari Raya Haji.

Kalimantan, which shares a border with Malaysia, appears to be the worst hit. All but the north of Borneo island was shrouded in smoke from forest fires, according to Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB).

Its spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told The Straits Times yesterday that 2,081 hot spots were recorded in Kalimantan in the morning, of which 1,508 fires were concentrated in the central region.


Long reach of haze
INDONESIA: (Above) Soldiers surveying burnt peat land during President Joko Widodo's inspection of an operation to control forest fires near the village of Sakakajang in Central Kalimantan yesterday. PHOTOS: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Soldiers surveying burnt peat land during President Joko Widodo's inspection of an operation to control forest fires near the village of Sakakajang in Central Kalimantan yesterday.  Police officers and firefighters working to put out a peat-land fire in Kapuas, Central Kalimantan, yesterday.

SINGAPORE: Muslims heading towards Al-Mawaddah Mosque in Compassvale Bow, Sengkang, around 7am on Hari Raya Haji yesterday amid the haze. The three-hour PSI reading at 7am stood at 171.

MALAYSIA: People having a dip at Stulang in Johor Baru during the holiday yesterday despite the haze which partly obscured the Berjaya Waterfront Hotel in the background.


NEA says haze may worsen; schools to close Friday
Singapore late Thursday ordered emergency school closures as air pollution reached "hazardous" levels due to suffocating smoke from agricultural fires raging on a nearby Indonesian island. PHOTO: SPH

The haze in Singapore got worse on Thursday and could enter "hazardous" levels on Friday, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said in a press release on Thursday night.

It said that the Ministry of Education has, in consultation with the Health Ministry, decided to close all primary and secondary schools on Friday as a result and suspend lessons.

However, the Manpower Ministry has reiterated that there will be no "national shut-down" of workplaces, NEA said in its statement.


Authorities identify companies likely responsible for forest fires
The Singapore Flyer was barely visible through the haze yesterday. Hourly PM2.5 concentrations have been on an upward trend overall. Photo: Jason Quah

The Government has already identified some companies which could be responsible for some of the fires that have resulted in the haze, and the National Environment Agency has written to the Indonesian authorities asking for a list of companies that Indonesian investigations have shown may be implicated.

Revealing this at a media briefing yesterday, Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said the Government could be issuing notices to these companies in the days to come, pursuant to the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act. More details will be revealed today, he said, adding that investigations are in progress.

Last year, Singapore passed the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, which states that haze pollution has occurred if the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) — for the same or any part of Singapore — remains above 100 for at least 24 hours. It further stipulates that it is an offence for any entity to cause or contribute to haze pollution here. This has happened at least twice in recent weeks. Asked whether the Government was investigating further breaches, Dr Balakrishnan said the Government was still collecting evidence.


State of emergency declared in Indonesia's Riau as forest fires worsen
An aerial view of a burning forest at Ogan Komering Ulu area in Indonesia's south Sumatra province.(Photo: REUTERS/Beawiharta)

Indonesia declared a state of emergency in Sumatra’s Riau province after forest fires put its air quality at a dangerous level.

The worsening situation in Sumatra, west of Java, prompted the Indonesian military to step up efforts to extinguish the fires and assist residents facing health issues caused by the smoke.

An assessment is being made to determine if more troops should be deployed, Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar told Channel NewsAsia.

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Indonesia Finally Ratifies The Asean agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution

After 12 years of waiting, the Indonesian parliament finally ratified the Asean agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution on September 16, 2014 making Indonesia the last country to ratify the agreement which was signed by ten Asean member countries in 2002.

“The ratification of the Asean agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution is the right step for Indonesia to show its seriousness in tackling trans-boundary haze pollution resulting from land and forest fires,” said Indonesian Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya as quoted by local media.

This week, smog caused by forest and peat land fires still haunts Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra and West Kalimantan provinces. In Riau province alone, there are reportedly 114 hot-spots which consequently deteriorates the air quality in the surrounding area. Air quality in neighboring countries of Singapore and Malaysia have reportedly been affected by the current situation.

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Let's take a common problem - your neighbor burns joss stick and incense paper everyday thereby creating smoke and ash in his house as well as yours. To him, he is appeasing his God and so he has to bear the smoke and ash.

But to you, your health is affected and so what should you do?
  • Suffer in silence
  • Pray for Rain to wash away the smoke and ash
  • Complain to everyone in your FaceBook
  • Speak to him to solve the problem
  • Build a high wall to keep away smoke and ash
  • Retaliate by doing the same
  • Report to the Police
  • Sue him in Court of Law
The course of your action would definitely affect your relationship with your neighbor.

Full Coverage:
Singapore clamps down on five firms over haze
Strong comments from Foreign Minister Shanmugam over Indonesia's 'shocking
Singapore's production, consumption also to blame
Sg Gov't gets tough with errant companies responsible for haze
Smoky haze swallows Singapore as fires rage in Indonesia
Local volunteer group plans to go after firms involved in causing haze
CCs islandwide distribute 60000 N95 masks to residents
Asean Today: Haze Hazard High; Conflict Grows; Three Terror Arrests; China
Haze chokes Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore
Singapore slams Jakarta over response to haze
Singapore shuts schools, distributes free masks for haze
Spore sends notice to four Indonesian firms for contributing to haze pollution
Delivery services and outdoor activities suspended
Singapore Sends Notices To Four Indonesian Firms Over Haze
Don't judge the haze by sight or smell
Singapore air quality 'very unhealthy' over Indonesia fires
Haze worsens on Thursday, 24-hour PSI edges into very unhealthy range
Joko heads to Borneo to check fire fighting as haze grows hazardous
Indonesia suspends operations of four companies over haze
Indonesia acts against timber, palm oil firms over haze
Authorities identify companies likely responsible for forest fires
Schools to close on Friday due to worsening haze situation: MOE
Haze worsens in Singapore on Friday as 24-hour PSI hits hazardous level
Haze situation turns grim in Kalimantan and Sumatra
Haze forces closure of schools across Singapore
Long reach of haze
Schools shut as haze chokes S'pore
Haze worsens in Singapore on Friday as 24-hour PSI hits hazardous levels
Singapore's anti-haze law needs more bite, say experts
Singapore air worsens to 'hazardous' level
Smog from Indonesia fires spurs Singapore to shut schools, urge curb in
Schools shut today but work goes on as haze worsens
Haze worsens: 24-hour PSI very unhealthy range, 3-hour PSI hits 314 at 10pm
Schools in Singapore to close on Friday due to haze situation
Singapore schools in emergency shutdown as air quality worsens
Primary, secondary schools to close on Fri, Sep 25 due to worsening haze
Singapore air quality 'very unhealthy' over Indonesia fires
Schools closed as haze worsens in Singapore
NEA says haze may worsen; schools to close Friday
Primary, secondary schools to be closed tomorrow due to worsening haze
Schools shut as haze chokes S’pore
Parents say school closures a relief as PSI keeps rising
Education Ministry to provide daily updates on school operations
PA, other agencies step up efforts to help the vulnerable