September 25, 2015 / 2:25 PM / 5 years ago

Singapore presses Asia Pulp & Paper for information on forest fires

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore has called on Asia Pulp & Paper Co Ltd (APP) to check whether its subsidiaries and suppliers have any connection with the recent forest fires in Indonesia, which have caused a thick smog to envelop the city state.

A forest fire is seen from a helicopter operated by the National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB) over Langgam District, Riau province on the island of Sumatra September 23, 2015 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. REUTERS/Regina Safri/Antara Foto

Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) also said in a statement that it has separately sent notices to four other Indonesian companies, accusing them of contributing to the pollution.

Unlisted APP, a member of Indonesia’s Sinar Mas group, is a major supplier of paper, pulp and packaging in Asia.

A spokeswoman for APP in Jakarta said it has not received a notice from Singapore to date.

The announcement came after Singapore shut primary and secondary schools on Friday as worsening pollution caused air the quality to deteriorate to what the authorities said were very unhealthy levels.

Southeast Asia has suffered for years from annual bouts of smog caused by slash-and-burn practices in Indonesia’s Sumatra and Kalimantan islands, but governments in the region have failed to address the problem.

The fires have been exacerbated this year by the effects of the El Nino weather phenomenon, as a prolonged dry season in Indonesia has parched the top soil, fuelling the flames.

NEA said the government is currently examining how to apply more economic pressure against errant companies.

“Ultimately, errant companies must know that there is a price to be paid for damaging our health, environment and economy,” the statement quoted Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan as saying.

Singapore passed a cross-border air pollution law last year that makes those who cause haze both criminally and civilly liable.

Reporting by Saeed Azhar, with additional reporting by Nicholas Owen in Jakarta; Editing by Greg Mahlich

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