Indonesia is once again on fire. The country’s lack of enforcement backbone is both ridiculous and laughable. Regional neighbours are expected to endure a month of haze each year and it every now and then the haze returns with renewed strength.
“The haze comes from Sumatra and Kalimanthan. Which companies own the estates? Malaysian and Singaporean as well as local plantation owners,” he said. As a result, “Malaysian and Singaporean companies in Indonesia also have to bear the responsibility of open burning, of slashing and burning, that is happening within their estate territories.” says Anthony Tan, executive director of the Centre for Environment, Technology & Development, Malaysia (CETDEM).
Here in Singapore, we’re getting busy to fight the haze. All of society is at work in what I call the 4P’s of action: Preparedness, Protection, Pursue and Punish. (lol..yes, I invented that…)
At the top of it all, Singapore is prepared. We’re psychologically ready for the worst, having experienced choking 400+ PSI in 2013. The internet is a lot more calm now and there are less fear mongers with fake stories of dying birds and animals.
The rest of society is also very busy:
The schools have in place a “Haze Management Measures” framework. Air-conditioned rooms, air purifiers, scaled down lessons (should air quality turn hazardous) and moving of students to indoor spaces. This will affect kindergartens to tertiary schools.
The NTUC has identified sectors at risk. These involve outdoor work and include the cleaning, landscaping, construction, transportation, ports, hospitality, oil & gas and security sectors.
Unions have been tasked to offer advisory, mask distributions and continuously monitor the situation and return information about conditions on the ground back to the government for further action.
The National Taxi Association had begun distributing “haze kits” which consist of N95 masks, surgical masks and antiseptic wet tissues to cabbies. They were also reminded by the NTA to take extra precaution on the roads, such as switching on headlamps in the day.
Yeo Guat Kwang, Director of NTUC’s Workplace Safety and Health Secretariat asked for all employers to ensure that the welfare of workers is not compromised.
“Employers are reminded to continually assess haze-related risks and adopt appropriate measures to safeguard the safety and health of their workers, especially those whose work requires them to be outdoors for a majority of the time,” reminded Mr. Yeo.
The Union of Security Employees had issued an advisory to all partners and highlighted that it is part of the security agencies standard procedure to issue masks to their security officers.
To prevent blackmarkets from forming and to extinguish any manner of profiteering, NTUC Fairprice have on stock a substantial amount of N95 masks for sale. During the 2013 onslaught of haze, there were reports of businesses and individuals selling masks for ridiculous prices. These were soon crushed when NTUC Fairprice and Unity flooded the markets with fresh supplies.
Organization and even individuals have taken the initiative and stepped up to the call of protecting our vulnerable.
Stand Up For Our Singapore organised by Wally Tham is a ground up movement that had raised $7k to buy air filters for old folks homes. This year they are starting the movement again and have raised Us$2600+ so far.
Click here to see how you can contribute also: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/i-will-be-your-shelter#/story
Much of the heavy hauling will rest on the shoulders of the Government. At the frontline of the battle is the National Environment Agency.
Stock piles of masks are on-hand for all our citizens. There will be sufficient numbers required for the nation even in the event of extended pollution.
The SAF is on standby to provide manpower and logistical support should the need ever arise, as it did in 2013. Yes, the army is not just there for war. They are the only ones with the ability to provide assistance should peace-time crises arise.
Singapore had also offered to work with the Indonesians to put out fires. However, this will depend on diplomacy and as well as Indonesian politics. Diplomacy also allows us to put pressure on the Indonesians to increase the punishment meted out to offenders.
“No more playing around. Don’t let there be any reluctance, send the culprits to jail, don’t just fine them” said Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Security and Political Affairs Luhut Binsar Panjaitan today in a news report.
And then there is the weapon of the law: we will identify culprits and pursue them to the full extent.
For the first time, the new Transboundary Haze Pollution Act has been triggered. This piece of law enables us to prosecute individuals or companies in neighbouring countries that cause severe air pollution in Singapore.
The words of the Act provides for “a fine not exceeding $100,000 for every day or part thereof that there is haze pollution in Singapore“. Errant companies can be fined up to S$2 million if they contribute to the 24-hour PSI remaining at 101 or higher for 24 hours or longer.
“The Transboundary Haze Pollution Act sets up certain threshold conditions at which certain provisions can be evoked. As far as I know, these two conditions have been met. That’s why when I called the Indonesian Minister for Environment and Forestry yesterday, I made a special appeal to share the names of the companies who are currently being investigated by the Indonesian authorities,” said Dr Balakrishnan.
So are we sitting ducks? Not at all.