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Singapore takes legal action against 5 Indonesian companies over haze

  • Singapore has served APP and four smaller companies with legal notices over fires burning in their concessions in Indonesia.
  • Fires across Sumatra have sent haze into neighboring Singapore, polluting the air.
  • Indonesia is also investigating more than 100 companies in connection with the fires.

Singapore is taking legal action against Asia Pulp & Paper and four other Indonesian companies whose concessions are full of fires causing air pollution across the region.

Singapore’s National Environment Agency served the companies notice under the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, a 2014 law that lets the city-state fine companies up to 2 million Singapore dollars ($1.4 million) for polluting its air.

APP is part of the Sinar Mas conglomerate, owned by Indonesia’s Widjaja family.

The other companies are Rimba Hutani Mas, Sebangun Bumi Andalas Wood Industries, Bumi Sriwijaya Sentosa and Wachyuni Mandira.

“This is not a natural disaster,” Singaporean Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in a statement, as quoted by AFP. “Haze is a man-made problem that should not be tolerated. It has caused major impact on the health, society and economy of our region.”

Singapore’s air pollutant index briefly hit “hazardous” levels last week, shutting down schools.

The air quality remains far worse in Indonesia, where tens of thousands of people have reported acute respiratory ailments. In some places, the air has reached five times hazardous levels.

Haze-choked Palangkaraya, the capital of Indonesia’s Central Kalimantan province. Photo by Jenito

Indonesia is investigating more than 100 companies suspected of failing to prevent or starting fires, a cheap tool for clearing land.

The disaster is harming relations between the two countries, with Singapore and also Malaysia calling on Indonesia to do more to stop the fires, which seem to crop up every year.

As a sarcastic response to comments by some Indonesian politicians that Singapore should be grateful for the clean air it gets from Indonesia when the fires aren’t burning, some Singaporeans set up

“Thank You Indonesia for 11 months of clean air!” reads a banner on the page.

A peatland burns in Riau, Indonesia, spewing haze into the atmosphere. Photo by Rhett A. Butler
A peatland burns in Riau, Indonesia, spewing haze into the atmosphere. Photo by Rhett A. Butler
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