To stop the burning, cut the demand

We have been tackling the symptoms of haze but not the source of the problem.

The legislation against the slash-and-burn farming practice has been put in place for some time, but recalcitrants choose to ignore it and enforcers of the law seem not to be able to do anything about it.

As long as there is demand for their products, farmers will continue with this destructive practice. A more sustainable way to stop the practice is to eliminate or decrease demand.

As consumers, we should demand that vendors adhere to a no-burn policy and use raw materials that are produced from responsible and sustainable farming practice.

In the bigger picture, the public, private, people and political sectors across different countries around this region should work together to put pressure throughout the value demand chain, in a multi-targeted and multi-faceted approach.

These sectors should make it mandatory for enterprises to protect the environment and provide sustainability reports.

Such reports cannot be based on merely paying lip service. They must be supported by credible and independent audit. There must be clear evidence of compliance that these enterprises are not involved with any environmentally degrading operation.

We should also explore the possibility of developing a "name and shame" database of recalcitrants, so that all stakeholders can put more pressure on them. We should take these recalcitrants to task with all the local and international legal, operational and administrative resources available to us.

Patrick Liew Siow Gian (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2015, with the headline 'To stop the burning, cut the demand'. Print Edition | Subscribe