Time to draft a transboundary haze law


THE haze crisis in Malaysia is nothing new.

The first time haze was reported in Malaysia was 58 years ago.

On Oct 19,1961, a flight from London headed to Sempang Airport in Kuala Lumpur, missed the city’s old airport and ended up in Singapore.

In recent years, Malaysia saw four major bouts of smog crisis – 1997,2006,2013 and 2015.

In 1997, smog blanketed Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Brunei and caused major health problems in these countries. Kuching recorded an Air Pollutant Index (API) of 860 during that crisis.

The haze returned in 2006 and its effects could be felt as far as South Korea and Saipan, a cluster of islands in the western North Pacific Ocean. The 2013 haze was considered among the worst in history according to Nasa scientists.

Muar declared a state of emergency for two days when the API spiked to 746 on June 23,2013.

Asean countries were blanketed again in haze in 2015, this time for the entire month of October.

Flights were grounded and schools closed, while tens of thousands of people sought medical treatment for respiratory problems across the region.

Yet, despite talks between Malaysia and Indonesia over the years to solve it, our haze problem persists.

The Indonesian government has been rapped over its lack of action and seriousness in tackling the slash and burn habits among its planters that have been causing this annual regional scourge.

But it is time for Malaysia and other Asean countries to take a clear and tough stand against the Indonesian government and the companies – some reportedly Malaysian-owned – involved in causing the fires on the archipelago.

They have to be serious to put an end to this yearly haze affair.

One of the actions is to be tough on the Indonesian government and companies involved for not doing enough to control the haze.

Although Malaysia and other countries were signatories to the 2002 Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, they have not come up with any mechanism, either locally or regionally, to deal with this accord effectively.

It’s about time the countries take the lead to formulate some sort of uniform transboundary haze law across the region to put a control to this annual rite.

To begin with, perhaps Malaysia could have its own Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, similar to the 2014 Singapore law that criminalises conduct which causes or contributes to haze pollution in the island state.

The Malaysian government has to make a hard but clear stand on this issue as we have been a victim of the haze one too many times.

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