WWF: Singapore’s Haze Underscores Need for Action Against Irresponsible Companies
Singapore’s air pollution --- which soared to a record 401 on the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) at one point --- underscores that deforestation is a global problem and that the slash and burn clearing of lands for the commodities of palm oil and paper affects us all. WWF, a conservation organisation whose tools, research and expertise around the situation in Indonesia have guided ongoing efforts to address the haze and fight deforestation, calls on the governments in the region to work closer together, partner with organisations to get to the root of the problem, and seek out irresponsible companies.
The haze is causing Singaporeans to experience physical discomfort – migraines, burning eyes, rashes, dry throats and runny noses – and in cases of weaker individuals, asthma attacks and respiratory issues. Some offices and businesses have even suspended operations, to ensure their employees and customers are not exposed to the hazardous haze.
”Forest and plantation-based companies must operate by complying with the related rules and regulations and must respect the environment --- irrespective whether they are foreign or local. Beyond halting any new land clearing using fire, strong preventive actions that address the issue through collaboration with local NGOs and civil society is encouraged," says Anwar Purwoto, Forest Program Director of WWF-Indonesia. "WWF Indonesia is ready to support Government of Indonesia to take necessary measures in preventing further haze and land/forest fires from happening again in future, such as monitoring the hotspots for law enforcement purpose and developing community-based fire mitigation,” Anwar adds.
WWF and associated NGOs have been in the forefront of using satellite and mapping-based technologies to identify and locate “hotspots”, informing Indonesian, Singapore and ASEAN government action. Additionally, WWF has been working on the underlying issues of deforestation in Indonesia for many years, including working with palm oil, pulp and paper companies, and the government to identify and protect forests of high biodiversity value.
In order to mitigate the negative impact of palm oil expansion on forests, WWF works to promote sustainable palm oil production and supports the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Plantations that are certified under the RSPO are forbidden to use burning to clear forests.
While several palm oil companies have assured that they have a zero-burning policy, it is imperative that they take responsibility for the full supply chain of palm oil and ensure that fruit or processed oil bought from third-party providers are not fueling the haze.
WWF also notes that Singapore’s corporations and consumers have a role to play in fighting deforestation. Singapore companies that buy palm oil should commit to purchasing only certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) and begin sourcing it as soon as possible. Consumers in Singapore can make a difference by asking retailers and manufacturers to use only CSPO in their products. Financial institutions in Singapore can also play role by joining the RSPO and investing only in clients that operate sustainably.