Editor’s Note: Minister Balakrishnan’s speech can be watched in its entirety, above. His address begins at the 20:14 mark.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Short-term economic interests in Southeast Asia are driving “environmental vandalism,” Singapore’s top environmental official said Monday.
Vivian Balakrishnan, the Singaporean Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, spoke in direct terms about the causes and effects of deforestation in the region, urging greater transparency, stronger law enforcement and stricter penalties for activities related to deforestation.
“We have a problem,” he said. “The root of this problem is misaligned commercial interests.”
Balakrishnan spoke to nearly 2,000 attendees at the Forests Asia Summit in Jakarta, minutes after the President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, delivered the keynote address. Relations between Singapore and Indonesia were strained last June when haze from peat fires in Sumatra drifted into Singapore, causing its worst air pollution on record.
But he also acknowledged the wider effects of continued deforestation on the climate.
“Even as we clear forests because we need more land for agriculture, ultimately this is self-defeating, because climate change progresses and sea levels rise,” he said. “Nature will take revenge on us.
“If we contuinue on this trajectory, all of us are in trouble.”