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Harsher penalties suggested for transboundary haze

A total of 52 pieces of feedback were received in the public consultation on the proposed Transboundary Haze Pollution Bill.

SINGAPORE: Harsher penalties for companies and more effective overseas enforcement were among the feedback received from the public on addressing the haze problem.

The feedback, collected in a month-long public consultation on the proposed Transboundary Haze Pollution Bill, was released on Friday (June 27) by the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR).

First mooted last year, the Bill allows the government to take legal action against organisations that cause or contribute to haze pollution in Singapore. Then, it was proposed that organisations guilty of the offence can be fined up to S$300,000. If they ignore requests to prevent, reduce or control haze, the fine may go up to S$450,000.

A total of 52 pieces of feedback were received in the public consultation, which was held from February to March this year.

One issue raised was that the proposed penalty sums were too low, and that repeated offences should be further penalised. Some also felt there would be difficulties in obtaining evidence from overseas organisations, which could affect the effectiveness of the Bill’s enforcement.

"On the legislative front, the main challenge will be pursuing investigations, getting evidence and then presenting that to court," said Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan.

MEWR said the feedback gathered will be used to refine the Bill. The ministry is targeting to table the revised Bill in Parliament on July 7, with the Bill likely to come into effect in October.

"I was very pleased to note that the governor of Riau expressed his support publicly for this Bill," Dr Balakrishnan said. "This is a positive sign. I hope that that will also translate into effective enforcement and investigation on the ground and productive collaboration between our agencies." 

Dr Balakrishnan also shared that legislation is not a panacea that will completely resolve the problem of transboundary haze, but it can increase pressure on companies to do the right thing.

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