Posted: 23 Jun 2013 12:19 PM PDT
Returning to Kuala Lumpur after several weeks abroad, the pea soup of polluted air that greeted our descent was the worst I have ever experienced. It seemed to stretch interminably for miles on end far beyond the horizon. The acrid smell of burnt wood induced bouts of coughing amongst fellow passengers as we queued for our taxi ride. "Welcome to foggy Malaysia", someone remarked in a futile attempt at raising everyone's spirits.
On board our taxi, the friendly Pak Cik driver asked where we had come from and how long we had been away. He was quickly absorbed in talking about the number one topic currently on the minds of millions in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia as lungs continue to be assailed by the smoke coming from the Sumatra fires.
The taxi driver's point was indisputable although diplomatically expressed. Neighbours in an apartment or kampong should keep their own as well as the common environment hazard-free and clean. They also need to watch out for each other.
Clearly Indonesia needs to do more to get its act together to prevent the illegal burnings that are an annual occurrence. But as noted by the former Singapore Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong: "Forest and peat fires are not easy to put out. They are not like our lalang or bush fires, small and confined. They burn and smoulder over thousands of acres in remote places far from the reach of fire fighters. So it is best to prevent man-made, illegal fires from being started in the first place."
Past attempts at preventing illegal fires have failed miserably – not only in Indonesia but also Malaysia. Because they have failed, tens of millions of ringgit and thousands of billions of rupiah have been spent purchasing the latest haze monitoring equipment to keep us informed and fire fighting and rain inducing equipment to help put the fires out. In the meantime, incalculable sums are being lost in terms of the impact on productivity, health, tourism revenue, and other knock-on effects. If the haze persists for a few months, we may be talking of losses of billions of dollars and perhaps even a few points shaved off the region's GDP.
Posted: 23 Jun 2013 12:01 PM PDT
At 7am on Sunday, 23rd June 2013, the Air Pollution Index (or Pollution Standards Index) in the coastal town of Muar, Johor, hit 716. For those without idea of what that means, let me provide you with some notes:
It clearly states that a state of emergency will be declared the moment the API exceeds 500 points. Guess when did the Minister finally declared emergency in Muar?
That was 3 hours and 29 minutes later.
Now that emergency has been declared, what are the residents of Muar supposed to do? I quickly went into the Department of Environment's website and found nothing on what are people supposed to do once emergency has been declared.
I went into the Ministry of Health's website, there was just an info page on how to deal with the haze conditions, but of course I don't expect them to come up with a plan because the emergency was declared by the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment.
I guess the government has yet to learn the lessons of Ops Daulat etc. Obviously the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has failed in both Risk Management and Crisis Management. In the Risk Management aspect, there should have been a Haze Risk Management Committee set-up and a Risk Assessment done by this committee that involves the Department of Environment, the Meteorological Department, Remote Sensing to determine the hotspots, wind directions, weather and wind patterns on a strategic (long-term) level.
Read more at: http://seademon.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/hazy-direction/
|You are subscribed to email updates from Malaysia Today - Your Source of Independent News |
To stop receiving these emails, you may unsubscribe now.
|Email delivery powered by Google|
|Google Inc., 20 West Kinzie, Chicago IL USA 60610|