Singapore raises concerns over haze at UN meeting in Africa

A cyclist rides along Gardens by the Bay East with the Singapore skyline shrouded in haze, on Oct 13, 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore has raised concerns over transboundary air pollution at a United Nations (UN) meeting involving some 120 environment ministers in Africa last week, the Ministry for the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) said on Sunday (May 29).

During the meeting, called the 2nd session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-2), Singapore's Dr Amy Khor said air pollution stunts economic development and has adverse impacts on human health.

Dr Khor, Senior Minister of State for Environment and Water Resources, noted that the World Health Organisation had estimated that seven million deaths occur each year from air pollution exposure.

But she said that tackling air pollution requires action on many fronts, and the joint efforts of governments, civil society, businesses and international organisations such as the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

In Singapore and South-east Asia, haze is a perennial problem, especially during the dry season from June to October. Forest and peatland fires in countries such as Indonesia release smoke-haze that clouds the region.

Dr Khor said overcoming haze pollution is relevant to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, specifically in promoting sustainable forest management and well-being for all.

"In this regard, both domestic and greater international cooperation are needed to address transboundary air pollution," Dr Khor said as she delivered Singapore's national statement during a ministerial dialogue at UNEA-2.

She pointed out how Singapore collaborates with its neighbours on fire prevention and mitigation, and capacity building projects to keep the haze at bay. The Republic has also enacted the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act to punish errant firms and individuals whose actions have caused haze pollution in Singapore.

Dr Khor urged businesses to enhance the transparency and accountability of their supply chains, even as civil society helps to foster an informed consumer movement and strengthen support for sustainably-sourced products.

"Regional and international cooperation and action are essential to make progress on the 2030 Agenda," she added.

During the meeting, Dr Khor, who was accompanied by officials from MEWR and the National Environment Agency, also met non-government groups World Wildlife Fund and World Resources Institute.

In its statement on Sunday (May 29), the ministry said the parties agreed that transboundary haze pollution required transparency and access to information to enable appropriate consumer decisions.

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