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  Straits Times 18 Aug 07
Haze fight: S'pore to work with slash-and-burn farmers
It is helping Sumatran province explore options like ecotourism, fishing
By Tania Tan

STOCKHOLM - SINGAPORE is acting as a matchmaker between private companies and slash-and-burn farmers in Indonesia to open new opportunities in the form of ecotourism and fishing.

This is part of an effort to stop the annual haze in the region caused by widespread burning to clear land for planting.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Yaacob Ibrahim gave this update yesterday on how Singapore and Indonesia are working together to tackle the haze problem.

'One of the ways we have chosen to tackle it is to extend a helping hand, work with the locals to see how we can help them find alternatives to slash-and- burning,' he said.

He was in Sweden for World Water Week, a leading global water meeting. There, the Public Utilities Board took home the Stockholm Industry Water Prize for its accomplishments in water management.

Speaking yesterday to a group of international delegates, he said Singapore representatives had made several trips to the regency of Muaro Jambi in the Sumatran province of Jambi. The province's governor was very keen on the idea, he said.

Jambi is the site of Indonesia's longest river, so fishing is an option being looked at, he added.

The focus of the collaboration to help Indonesia achieve its aim of halving the number of hot spots this year is on the Muaro Jambi regency - roughly nine times the size of Singapore.

Singapore sent a fact-finding team to Jambi in January this year and hosted a workshop in March to come up with a fire prevention and mitigation draft master plan. This was handed to Jakarta on March 16.

The Jambi and Indonesian national plans seek to increase awareness of fire prevention, provide livelihood alternatives for slash-and-burn farmers and promote responsible farming and peatland management practices.

Dr Yaacob was speaking yesterday as part of a four-member panel discussing climate change.

He said that stemming the haze by slowing the rate of deforestation was an important strategy.

He added: 'We cannot expect countries to act against their own interests by adopting unrealistic solutions...An effective solution to climate change has to be global, with every country doing its part.'

Related articles on Singapore: haze and forests
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