'Ground-breaking' law passed to fight haze

'Ground-breaking' law passed to fight haze

A new law which targets firms responsible for haze pollution in Singapore will be ground-breaking, but must not overreach, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan, in response to calls for heavier penalties and for the Bill to have a wider scope.

Addressing concerns raised in Parliament yesterday that the maximum fine of $2 million may not be harsh enough, Dr Balakrishnan said it would be a start, and that the law would be reviewed to assess whether the amount would be "sufficient deterrence".

"This is new legislation. We don't know yet how this will work in practice. We want to be very careful that we don't overreach or have unrealistic penalties," he added.

Under the Transboundary Haze Pollution Bill, which was passed in Parliament yesterday, firms here or abroad can be fined up to $100,000 for each day of haze, up to a cap of $2 million. It may take effect in October or November, reports said.

The penalties have been upped from a previous cap of $300,000, spelt out in a draft Bill earlier this year.

Members of Parliament (MPs) said during yesterday's debate on the Bill that $2 million may be a slap on the wrist for large corporations responsible for the slash-and-burn practices.

Dr Balakrishnan noted that, besides criminal liabilities, civil suits may be brought against the errant entities. "And there is no limit to the civil liability except what the court decides to award," he said.

During the debate, MPs raised a number of concerns, including whether consumers can play a part and if the Bill should cast a wider net.

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