'Clearer rules on cross-border pollution needed'

Clearer international rules on pollution that crosses national borders are needed and states should join forces to enforce and comply with pollution standards and regulations, said experts at the close of a conference on transboundary pollution.

The conference, on the evolving rules and principles of international environmental law, also aimed to raise awareness in the region about the rights and responsibilities under international law when it comes to transboundary pollution. Some 100 academics and officials attended the conference.

The two-day event, held at the Orchard Hotel and which ended yesterday, was organised by the National University of Singapore's Centre for International Law.

Professor S. Jayakumar, chairman of the centre's international advisory panel, in his closing remarks, said: "There remain some gaps in international environmental law on some aspects of transboundary pollution. For example, there is a need for clearer international rules and regulations applicable to transboundary air pollution and offshore activities."

Effective institutions and strong cooperation mechanisms are needed to solve transboundary pollution problems, he added.

In particular, experts discussed the limitations of transboundary haze pollution laws and cooperation mechanisms. For instance, Indonesia has not yet ratified a 2002 Asean agreement to fight haze.

Professor Alan Tan of NUS' law faculty, writing in a conference paper, said: "Any form of meaningful regional or inter-state engagement under Asean auspices can conceivably be pursued only after Indonesia ratifies the Asean agreement and becomes a contracting state party."

The centre is working to publish papers presented at the conference, Prof Jayakumar said. It has published books on topics such as legal frameworks around the South China Sea; settlement of a land reclamation case between Singapore and Malaysia; and law and policy governing sub-marine cables.

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