Haze Tracker site gives easy access to key info

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 2 May 15;

To get news and information about the haze, you can now go to the Haze Tracker website.

Created by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) with the help of software firm Tech+Art, the site will host the institute's original content on the topic, as well as articles and studies from research institutes, non-government groups and media outlets.

The SIIA said the goal is to give concerned citizens easy access to useful information.

"We also hope the one-stop portal will help analysts, journalists, activists and policymakers in their work," it said.

The site also directs people to an online research mapping tool developed by the National University of Singapore's Centre for Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing.

With this tool, you can view a map of the region, and overlay data such as satellite images and locations of hot spots detected by the satellites.

Hot spots are areas of high temperature on the ground, and indicate where there could be fires.

Users can also superimpose a concession map that identifies which firms are responsible for various land plots in Indonesia.

But the SIIA acknowledged the map might be out-of-date as it relies on 2010 data from Indonesia's forestry ministry.

It noted: "Some member countries in ASEAN have decided against making public their official concession maps due to sovereignty concerns.

In countries such as Indonesia, the central authorities are still in the process of consolidating an accurate and up-to-date map."

While the Government and non-government groups have created haze websites as well, researchers said Haze Tracker is "nice and friendly".

Dr Erik Velasco from the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology said the materials were well-presented.

"It could work as a serious and independent reference for people to learn more about the haze," the research scientist said, but noted that researchers and analysts would appreciate more technical and scientific reports.