NEA issues notice to fifth Indonesian company over haze

The National Environment Agency is requesting that PT Bumi Mekar Hijau deploys firefighters to extinguish fire on land owned or occupied by them, among other measures.
Channel NewsAsia 30 Sep 15;

SINGAPORE: A fifth Indonesian company has been sent a Preventive Measures Notice under the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, the National Environment Agency (NEA) announced on Wednesday (Sep 30).

The notice requests that PT Bumi Mekar Hijau deploy fire-fighting personnel to extinguish or prevent the spread of fire on land owned or occupied by them, discontinue burning activities on such land and to submit to NEA any plan of action to extinguish fires on such land or to prevent recurrence.

Last Friday, NEA said it had served a similar notice to four Indonesian firms for haze-causing fires.

Under the Act, the maximum fine for companies found guilty of starting fires is S$100,000 per day, capped at S$2 million in total.


In its statement, NEA also said that the haze may deteriorate to the mid-section of the Very Unhealthy range on Thursday. It noted that air quality deteriorated "slightly" since Wednesday morning, with the 3-hour PSI increasing steadily from 108 at 9am to 187 at 6pm. NEA said haze spreading for Sumatra is still in Singapore's surrounding region and haze from Kalimantan is being blown in as well.

"The 24-hour PSI for the next 24 hours is expected to be in the high end of the Unhealthy range and low end of the Very Unhealthy range, and may deteriorate to the mid-section of the Very Unhealthy range if denser haze is blown in," said NEA.

- CNA/hs

2 potential plaintiffs to sue firms causing haze: Volunteer group
Volunteer group Haze Elimination Action Team (HEAT) also plans to sue companies prosecuted by Singapore and Indonesian authorities with the help of lawyers who have agreed to work pro-bono.
Linette Lim, MediaCorp News Channel NewsAsia 30 Sep 15;

SINGAPORE: Efforts to initiate civil action against firms involved in setting fire to Indonesia's forests have gained momentum, with two potential plaintiffs coming forward, according to the volunteer group Haze Elimination Action Team (HEAT).

HEAT has identified an individual and an organisation who will sue companies found responsible for the haze, said the group's founder Dr Ang Peng Hwa, in an exclusive interview with Channel NewsAsia.

"One, a person's family member has been in hospital, incurred expenses of S$10,000 directly as a result of the haze,” he said. “The second one is a sports school. Total shutdown, (costing) S$2,000 a day – no revenue at all for two weeks and still going, now it's more than two weeks.

“So this is a very clear case, losses suffered as a result of the haze. You know, if somebody can be held liable, then sure, we'll go after (them)."

HEAT has planned to sue companies prosecuted by Singapore and Indonesian authorities with the help of lawyers who have agreed to work pro-bono. Currently, companies under investigation include an unnamed Singapore-listed firm, as well as Indonesia's Asia Pulp & Paper, which has entities in Singapore.


Besides civil action, non-governmental organisations, like the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), are getting more Singaporeans to vote with their wallets with the help of awareness campaigns.

"The strongest argument is still the consumer voice, and that's what we're trying to channel, that's what we're trying to aim with the 50,000 pledges,” said WWF Singapore’s Director of Communications Kim Stengert. “I think that's always the strongest argument: As soon as people stand up and say, 'We want you to fix this problem', then companies will follow."

One observer added that the most effective way to tackle the haze is to look beyond the Singapore perspective.

"What we need to look at, what needs to be looked at, is what is the cost to Indonesia's economy, social, economic cost to Indonesian economy because of the haze year after year,” said Asit Biswas, a Distinguished Visiting Professor from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. “If you can show to them, the cost to them as public is high, the electoral game will be very different."

- CNA/ek

NEA serves notice on another Indonesian firm
Today Online 30 Sep 15;

SINGAPORE — As the haze continued to cast a pall over businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector here, the National Environmental Agency (NEA) has issued a notice to another Indonesian company, directing it to take fire-fighting measures.

The company PT Bumi Mekar Hijau is the fifth to receive a preventive measures notice from the NEA under the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act.

Haze remained at unhealthy levels today (Sept 30) despite an early morning thunderstorm. As at 11pm, the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) was 132 to 163, while the 3-hour PSI was 171, down from 224 at 4pm.

The one-hour PM2.5 concentration was 106 to 144 microgrammes per cubic metre.

Haze spreading from Sumatra is still persisting in the surrounding region and some haze from Kalimantan has also been spreading westward to the surrounding region, contributing to the slight deterioration in haze conditions here, the agency said.

The 24-hour PSI tomorrow is expected to be in the high end of the unhealthy range to the low end of the very unhealthy range, and could deteriorate to the mid-section of the very unhealthy range if denser haze blows in.

Last week, the NEA issued a preventive measures notice to four Indonesian companies suspected to be causing the haze, and requested a fifth with an office here to provide more information, putting into action the powers of the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act for the first time since it was passed last year.

Businesses catering to tourists here are being hit in the pocket as a result of the haze, with visitors steering clear of outdoor attractions.

At the Singapore Flyer, which offers panoramic views of Singapore’s skyline, tourists showed up, only to change their minds about going up after considering the conditions. Twenty-six-year-old Lisa, from Italy, said: “We were a little shocked because everybody is wearing masks. It’s not so nice, and the air is not so fresh.”

Another tourist Gary Metcalf, 50, also decided not to take a ride on the Flyer, and said that his golf session at Raffles Country Club had to be called off because of the haze. He added: “(I am) disappointed with the haze because my friend has not been feeling too well. We knew it was bad, but we did not know that it will be this bad.”

Mr Kian Guan, 50, supervisor of the Ya Kun Kaya Toast branch at the Flyer, said the outlet even shortened operating hours to half a day twice last week, on Sept 24 and 25, when the haze was at its worst. The management considers stopping operations at branches with outdoor seating when the PSI crosses the 200 mark, he said.

Mr Mattias Mross, 41, however, gamely took a ride. “We are from Shanghai so I think we are used to the haze,” he added.

When contacted, the Singapore Flyer management said they have seen a drop in walk-in visitors, but not by a “significant” amount, adding: “We don’t foresee the haze affecting the operations of the Flyer.”

Over at Sentosa, the island has seen visitorship drop about 20 per cent since the onset of the haze.

“When the PSI level exceeds 300, or if the experience of the attraction is compromised, we may suspend operations of our outdoor attractions such as the Wings of Time, as well as outdoor programmes.

“If the PSI rises to levels where visibility becomes a safety consideration for our cable car operations, we will also suspend the cable car rides until the situation improves,” said Sentosa Leisure Management’s divisional director (island operations) Koh Piak Huat.

Last Thursday, it suspended its cable car services when the haze reached hazardous levels and visibility deteriorated.

Travel agencies serving in-bound tourists are also feeling the pinch, although they noted overall visitor arrivals here have been on the decline. Mr Bernard Yu, senior manager for the in-bound travel department at SingExpress Travel, said numbers are down 30 per cent from the same period last year.

There could be a pickup when China’s Golden Week holidays — to mark its National Day — begin tomorrow, but the Chinese economy has been weak, he said.

While there have been no cancellations so far, three travel agents from Hong Kong have enquired about the haze and considered cancelling, he added.

Travel GSH managing director Chai Yin said the agency has seen a slight decrease of about 18 per cent.

But, Singapore is typically a short stop for its customers, who spend a couple of days here before moving on to other countries as part of the itinerary, he said.