Limit to what can be done

SMOKY: The Singapore River and Central Business District were shrouded in haze yesterday, and Singaporeans asked whether the Government could take tougher action against Indonesia.


    Jun 20, 2013

    Limit to what can be done

    AS THE smoke haze continues to shroud Singapore, some are questioning if more can be done to tackle the perennial problem.

    With the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) hitting a record high of 290 at 9pm yesterday, some called on the Government to take tougher action against Indonesia, while others called for the problem caused by fires in Indonesia to be escalated to an international level.

    Said netizen Seah Goh on Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam's Facebook page: "We need to be tough and yet gentle at the same time to ask Indonesia to (clean up their) act."

    But Mr Shanmugam explained on Facebook that there was a limit to how much Singapore can do.

    "Every country is sovereign and we can't intervene in the actions (of) other countries. The burning is taking place in Indonesia. What do you think Singapore can do about that?" he said.

    He added that the Government has raised the issue with Indonesian ministers and, for several years, "offered technical assistance, expressed our deep distress at what is happening, and have also raised the issue internationally".

    But he said the "reality of international law (and) international relations must be recognised".

    Mr Gan Thiam Poh, a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for National Development and Environment, said the issue is not that the Government does not want to do more.

    "We are trying to even offer help to...solve the problem. We can even send our people there but it's whether the source of the haze allows it," he said.

    Yesterday, the PSI climbed steadily throughout the day. It was moderate at 77 at 6am. But it breached the unhealthy range at 11am to hit 103.

    The PSI rose very close to the very-unhealthy level with a reading of 190 at 8pm, before coming close to the hazardous level at 290 an hour later.

    The highest PSI reading before yesterday was in 1997 at 226.