Indonesia’s Agreement to Share Concession Maps to Tackle Haze

Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources (a) to what extent will Indonesia’s agreement to share digitised concession maps of its forests on only a case-by-case and government-to-government basis help with the identification of errant companies engaging in slash-and-burn practices; (b) what are the situations in which Indonesia has agreed, or not agreed, to share their concession maps; and (c) whether any date has been set for the launch of the ASEAN Sub-Regional Haze Monitoring System (HMS) platform.

My Parliamentary Question following up on the haze issue, asked during the 12 August 2013 sitting.

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Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources (a) to what extent will Indonesia’s agreement to share digitised concession maps of its forests on only a case-by-case and government-to-government basis help with the identification of errant companies engaging in slash-and-burn practices; (b) what are the situations in which Indonesia has agreed, or not agreed, to share their concession maps; and (c) whether any date has been set for the launch of the ASEAN Sub-Regional Haze Monitoring System (HMS) platform.

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan : Haze is caused by the burning of forests because this is the cheapest way to clear land. The Ministers of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) on Transboundary Haze Pollution agreed to explore sharing concession maps and the use of satellite and mapping technologies to monitor hotspots and identify errant companies. Singapore was at the forefront of this effort by developing the technology platform to enable this – the ASEAN Sub-Regional Haze Monitoring System (HMS). The overlay of Indonesia’s concession maps on the hotspot data will help to pinpoint which plantation companies are responsible for illegal slash-and-burn practices.

Unfortunately, the agreement that was reached among the Ministers at the 15th MSC meeting held on 17 July 2013 fell short of Singapore’s recommendation: a fully functioning system populated with comprehensive accurate concession maps overlaid with hotspot locations accessible to the general public. Unfortunately, Indonesia claimed there were legal impediments to greater transparency. Consequently, we could only get a consensus to adopt the joint haze monitoring system with data shared at the Government-to-Government level, subject to the ASEAN Leaders’ approval at the ASEAN Leaders’ Summit in October 2013.

Nevertheless, even if the maps can only be shared on a Government-to-Government basis, the HMS should enable governments to identify errant companies and take appropriate enforcement action against them. We therefore hope that ASEAN will launch the HMS with the relevant country concession maps promptly in October 2013. We also hope Indonesia will ratify the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution as soon as possible.

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Source: Singapore Parliament Reports (Hansard)

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.