Updated: 03/11/2014 21:12

International Advisory Panel on Transboundary Pollution to be appointed

International Advisory Panel on Transboundary Pollution to be appointed

The government will appoint an International Advisory Panel on Transboundary Pollution. 

This was announced by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan at his ministry's Committee of Supply debate today.

The panel, which will be co-chaired by former Senior Minister S Jayakumar and Ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh, will consist of legal experts from Singapore and abroad. 

It will study and advise the government on: 

the trends and developments in international law relating to transboundary pollution, the issues arising under international law from the impact of transboundary pollution, and the related solutions and practical steps which Singapore can adopt. 

Explaining the government's decision to appoint this panel, Dr Balakrishnan says legal experts have agreed that clearer international rules, effective institutions and strong cooperation mechanisms are needed to address transboundary pollution. 

He added multilateral and bilateral efforts are needed, especially investigation and enforcement on the ground at the source. 

But progress on this front is not as good as they'd like it to be. 

" At the 23rd ASEAN summit last year, our ASEAN leaders agreed to adopt the ASEAN sub-regional haze monitoring system, which would help us pinpoint companies that practice illegal land clearing activities. However we have not yet received the concession maps from the Indonesian authorities. We have also made formal requests to Indonesia to share evidence and name the companies involved with illegal land clearing practices. So far, deafening silence."

Nonetheless, he emphasized that Singapore still needs to work with its neighbours. 

Dr Balakrishnan also provided an update on his ministry's plans to enact a new law on transboundary haze pollution. 

This law will allow the government to take to task not only local companies, but foreign ones that cause transboundary haze in Singapore. 

He says that forest fires, which is the root cause of haze, is fundamentally a commercial problem, as it's cheaper for companies to clear land by illegal burning. 

So Singapore needs to send a clear and unequivocal signal that irresponsible commercial actions that put people's health at risk are not condoned. 

The draft bill of this law has been posted on the REACH portal for public consultation.

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