Monday, May 23

Singapore portal to trace hotspots as haze hits

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SINGAPORE: The Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) will work with Indonesian, Malaysian and Singapore experts, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and agribusiness companies to gather more information about the causes of the haze, and sites where the fires burn.

The efforts aim to combine real-time thermal hotspots, wind direction, land use and, where possible, concession maps on a dynamic online platform.

This will allow law enforcers, environmental activists, commodity buyers and traders, journalists and any interested member of the public to analyse the source of the haze as it hits. This online portal will also host commentaries, reports and videos on the subject of transboundary haze.

Announcing the initiative at the SIIA Haze Roundtable 2014 “Beyond politics: Facilitating ground-up initiatives yesterday”, SIIA chairman Associate Professor Simon Tay said the effort was ahead of the governments for good reason.

“Until Asean governments can move things forward with the joint haze monitoring system (HMS), there is a need to plug an information gap in collaboration with our NGO and corporate partners.

“We believe reliable and transparent information is crucial if we want to deter slash-and-burn and other unsustainable practices in the resource sector,” said Tay.

Asean leaders in principle adopted the HMS in October 2013, after the severe haze spell of last June.

Developed by Singapore, the S$100,000 (RM250,000) monitoring system was designed to identify fire and haze culprits by overlaying high-resolution satellite images on land use and concession maps.

The launch was stalled, however, as some member countries were reluctant to make public their maps due to legal concerns.

In the development of its portal, SIIA will seek input from its NGO partners with relevant expertise, such as the World Resources Institute (WRI), which is running the Global Forest Watch platform to monitor deforestation rate in Indonesia.

This effort was endorsed by some 40 academics, corporate and NGO representatives gathered at the SIIA Haze Roundtable at The Regent to review the haze situation this year.

Additionally, the institute also be holding its first public exhibition “Haze: Know it. Stop it” at VivoCity starting yesterday (Nov 7) till tomorrow (Nov 9).

The exhibition was officially launched by Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower Dr Amy Khor yesterday.

“Transboundary haze is more than an environmental hazard. It affects public health. It hurts many businesses. It is also a diplomatic issue. We hope our exhibition can help the public understand the issue more broadly.

“We will also be sharing what consumers and businesses in Singapore can do to help stop the haze,” said SIIA deputy director and fellow for Asean Business and Sustainability Chua Chin Wei.