Incentives, new tech may work better

Indonesia should consider devising incentives for oil palm plantations across the country to exploit the adage that "prevention is better than cure", instead of exploiting the nation's rainforests ("Strong comments from S'pore"; last Saturday).

According to expert estimates compiled by Greenpeace South-east Asia, about 110,000 deaths in Sumatra and the region are caused by irresponsible burning every year.

Thousands of other innocent people are displaced from their homes.

Billions of dollars in revenue are also lost because of the ensuing haze, in healthcare costs and lost business, for example.

This is a human, ecological and economic tragedy that deserves more concerted preventive action than lip service.

It is time for Asean and the rest of the world to come together and implement a long-term strategy for sustainable development, including cracking down on crimes against biodiversity, as well as embracing eco-friendlier commodities ("S'pore clamps down on five firms over haze"; last Saturday and "Singapore announces new programme on sustainable development at United Nations"; ST Online, Monday).

On the issue of eco-friendlier commodities, researchers at the University of Bath in Britain recently discovered that oily yeast has good potential to be a "green" palm oil substitute.

Perhaps our tertiary institutions and industry players could explore the feasibility of joint research and investment with the British university to take this outcome further in scope and scale.

Toh Cheng Seong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2015, with the headline 'Incentives, new tech may work better'. Print Edition | Subscribe