Singapore approves bill to fine domestic, overseas air polluters

Singapore approves bill to fine domestic, overseas air polluters
Marina Bayfront is shrouded in haze, as seen from the Singapore Flyer, as the PSI surpasses the healthy threshold of 100 on June 17, 2013.

SINGAPORE - Singapore's parliament has passed a bill proposing to fine companies that cause haze pollution to the country's air, regardless of whether the companies operate on the island.

The bill was drafted after Singapore suffered the worst haze on record last year, as smoke from forest clearing in neighbouring Indonesia shrouded the city. The bill will now go to the president who will sign it into law.

Under the bill, companies found guilty of causing haze could be fined up to S$100,000 for each day they pollute, with the maximum aggregate amount being S$2 million.

They will also be subject to civil claims from parties who say they have suffered damage caused by haze.

"We have to make companies accountable for the harm they inflict on our health and environment," Minister of Environment and Water Resource Vivian Balakrishnan said in a Facebook post.

While it would be difficult to enforce clean-air regulations involving overseas companies, lawmakers hope companies will comply to retain access to Southeast Asia's banking and business hub.

However, in applauding the move to solve a decades-long problem, members of parliament, legal professionals and academics raised concerns on the difficulty of obtaining accurate related data and enforcing the law outside Singapore.

"Yet all said, it is critical that the law be introduced as it is one of many ammunition that is required to fight a very difficult environmental problem," said Kala Anandarajah, a partner at Singapore law firm Rajah & Tann LLP.

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