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Singapore—A connection between the current forest fires and haze problems and Singapore was recently revealed as three companies linked to the fires actually have offices in Singapore.

A report in the Straits Times (ST) named the three Indonesian companies that have connections to Singapore— Hutan Ketapang Industri, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and April Group.

Hutan Ketapang Industri has links with Sampoerna Agri Resources, a Singapore-based company. After fires were found in Hutan Ketapang Industri’s land, the firm was closed off by the authorities in Indonesia.

Meanwhile, APP and April, which are also linked to the fires according to Indonesia’s media, have offices in Singapore.

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APP and the April Group are two of the biggest paper and pulp firms in the world.

ST reports that the National Environment Agency (NEA) has yet to take legal action against the three companies.

Under Singapore’s Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, parties who are culpable for being the cause of or condoning fires that bring about unhealthy levels of haze in Singapore may be fined S$100,000 a day, with a maximum of S$2 million.

According to the NEA, 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) values of 101 or greater for 24 hours or more constitute unhealthy air levels.

“NEA is monitoring the situation closely, and will provide updates as appropriate if we commence investigations on any company under the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act,” the Agency said.

As of September 24, this was NEA’s latest advisory. “For the next few days, thundery showers are forecast over Singapore and showers are also expected in parts of Sumatra. The prevailing winds are forecast to shift to blow mainly from the southeast. Although recent showers may have helped to improve the haze situation, the hotspot activities in Sumatra can be expected to persist. Singapore may still experience occasional slightly hazy conditions over the next few days if the prevailing winds blow in smoke haze from Sumatra. For the next 24 hours, the 1-hr PM2.5 concentration readings are expected to be in Band I (Normal) and may enter the low-end of Band II (Elevated) occasionally, and the 24-hr PSI is forecast to be in Moderate range.”

The connection between the forest fires and haze problem and APP was reported on Indonesian news site foresthints.news on Sunday, September 22.

According to the report, “There is a set of undeniable evidence that peat fires within and around a pulpwood plantation concession (PT WKS) owned by Asia Pulp and Paper (APP/Sinarmas) have been escalating. The APP concession, situated in Sumatra’s Jambi province, covers almost 300,000 hectares in total, or four times the size of Singapore.”

The same report mentioned that April also had forest fires.  “In addition, a concession owned by APRIL (PT RAPP), as well as that of one of its key suppliers (PT SRL), both of which lie in Sumatra’s Riau province, were also sealed by the ministry last month as a consequence of land and forest fires.”

Authorities from Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry said that they would begin an investigation into the matter. “Should a supplier be found not adhering to this, they will be first suspended pending an investigation. If there is sufficient evidence of this practice, the supplier will be terminated immediately.”

As for Hutan Ketapang Industri and Sampoerna Agri Resources, earlier this month, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, the Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister, said that Hutan Ketapang Industri was one of the companies whose plantations had been closed off by the government when fires were discovered in their concession areas.

Hutan Ketapang Industri is a subsidiary of Sungai Menang, another Indonesian company, which in turn is a subsidiary of Sampoerna Agro.

Sampoerna Agri Resources, which is based in Singapore, has a two-third ownership of Sampoerna Agro./ TISG

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