I READ with much interest the report “Jokowi calls for culprits to be punished” (The Star, Sept 18). It is news, better late than never, that Malaysians welcome.
To put things into perspective, the regional haze was first observed in the early 1990s. Since then, this transboundary air pollution has become a seasonal event! The primary question then is why is it happening yearly despite the many discussions among the regional authorities to put an end to it? People in the region want a satisfying answer now.
Meanwhile, they continue to suffer the adverse effects of what seems to be an ironic situation. Allow me to explain. The culprits who start the fire have a profit-maximising objective, namely to clear the land in the cheapest way possible. They have neither the means nor the motivation to stop the fires once they are raging. The culprits know that the regional authorities would take time to respond, thus permitting the fires to grow bigger until they become infernos. By then, the job of clearing the land would be well in progress, and the challenging task of putting out the fires would be left to the national and regional authorities.
Here’s the irony: the people who are affected by the haze are the ones who pay for clearing the land! This is because the regional governments would use taxpayers’ money to help put out the fires.
When will this madness end?
The transboundary haze is not without socio-economic costs either. Tourism in the region will definitely be whacked when word goes around that visiting South-East Asia during the third quarter of each year should be avoided because of the haze.
Schools are closed, disrupting lessons and students’ time table. Air travel is affected, causing inconvenience to travellers.
Health problems also become worse, especially for those with respiratory illnesses.
Even animals, including the endangered orang utan, are badly affected by the fire and smoke in their natural habitat.
English cleric John Wesley (1703-1791) once said: “Prayer is where the action is.”
Some people are praying that South-East Asia’s annual haze won’t happen again. They are hoping the regional authorities will act proactively to stop the fires and impose severe penalties on the serious and serial offenders.
K. BOB , Kuala Lumpur
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