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Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources focuses on mitigating haze problem

by April 15, 2016 General

SINGAPORE, April 15 (Xinhua) — Singapore’s Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli on Friday graced the 3rd Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources.

The dialogue attracted stakeholders to discuss efforts towards mitigating the haze problem through sustainable and equitable growth in Asia’s resource sector.

Transboundary haze last year cost Singapore an estimated 700 million Singapore dollars (515 million U.S. dollars), while Indonesia suffered an estimated 16 billion U.S. dollars in losses. The problem of haze is clearer than ever, thus a multi-stakeholder approach towards addressing the root causes of haze need to be continuous to prevent another ill season of fire and haze.

Opening with a discussion on efforts towards sustainable land management and the challenges faced in fire prevention, the Dialogue continued into boarder issues such as greening the palm oil supply chain, supporting smallholder sustainability and sustainable finance.

In his keynote speech, Minister Masagos said a viable and sustainable agroforestry sector is a key contributor to economic wellbeing of the region. To attain this, agroforestry companies should take full responsibility for fire prevention and mitigation in their concessions.

These companies should invest in efforts to rehabilitate degraded and fire-prone peatlands, and ensure that sustainable policies and practices don’t stop with them, but are implemented throughout their supply chain, Masagos noted.

“We are not in a denial stage anymore, we are in a stage of correcting the mistakes of the past,” said Nazir Foead, head of Indonesia’s Peatland Restoration Agency.

He said the Indonesian government is serious on stopping haze by putting moratorium on expanding palm oil plantations.

The Peatland Restoration Agency, which was set up in January this year by Indonesian President Joko Widodo to restore about 2 million hectares of peatland, is in talks with Singapore Environment Council (SEC) on peatland restoration.

The organizer, the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA), also launched its haze policy brief titled “Southeast Asia’s Burning Issue: From the 2015 haze crisis to a more robust system” at the Dialogue.

The policy brief reviews haze crisis which crouched over some of the Southeast Asian countries last year and presents key recommendations to address the root cause of peat and forest fires in Indonesia.

It points out that the Indonesian government needs to promote and institutionalize good forest and land governance. While at the industry level, major agribusiness companies must remain committed to “zero burning” policy and establishing traceability across their entire supply chain.

In addition, the policy brief added that Singapore can and should do more in the area of sustainable financing.