Green groups: Govt must enact anti-haze law, stop causes at source

PETALING JAYA: Environmental non-governmental organisations are demanding the Malaysian government enact the anti-haze law to safeguard the environment from companies that cause haze pollution.

Greenpeace Southeast Asia senior programme manager Thing Siew Shuen said enforcing the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA) is an important move for Malaysian companies to prove they are not responsible for forest burnings in the region and are not the primary cause of haze.

“The Act will empower the government to carry out necessary investigations on suspicious companies and for the courts to take legal action against companies that cause haze pollution,” he said.In an email addressed to Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad – a copy of which was made available to The Star – Thing said transboundary haze has plagued the country for over three decades and has caused negative consequences to the economy and society, on top of school and university closures.

“The haze has even caused deaths and lung diseases whenever the air pollutant index (API) exceeds unhealthy levels.”

“Greenpeace Malaysia believes the Act will protect the welfare of citizens from haze pollution and restore the public’s faith in public institutions that tackle haze issues,” he said.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia correspondent Shamila Ariffin expressed its support but felt that it is more efficient to ensure that there is optimal monitoring and surveillance of forests to prevent forest and peat fires and transboundary haze from occurring.

“While there may be opportunity to develop various legal instruments to hold companies accountable in their country of origin in a court of law, the main challenges lie in the accessibility to and presentation of evidence,” she said.

“Without optimal governance and legal conditions, corporations may continue to break the law,” she added.

Greenpeace Southeast Asia regional campaign strategist Heng Kiah Chun said most of the haze in the region is caused by peat fires. Peat is a brown deposit resembling soil that is extremely flammable.

“The solution is fire prevention. We can solve the root cause of peat fires by protecting, restoring and reflooding peatlands. Stop destroying peatlands and start restoring them,” he said.

Heng suggested that private companies follow the NDPE commitment (No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation) which means encouraging best practices on peatlands and not implementing new developments on them.

“Most major palm oil traders and some of the largest palm oil producers have adopted NDPE policies. NDPE provides a great platform for the industry to reform and repair the damage to its reputation,” he said.

“However, the industry’s failure to implement these NDPE policies is doing more damage to the sector’s reputation. Companies must stop forest and peatland clearance, start restoring peatlands and demand the same from their suppliers,” he said.

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