Haze: Work together to tackle haze and air quality problems, Asean nations urged

The Star, 22 Jun 2013

PETALING JAYA: Asean nations need to work together to tackle the haze and air quality issues, said the Prime Minister’s Office.

It stressed on the importance for the regional grouping to have a spirit of co-operation.

It also said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel would travel to Indonesia and meet Indonesian government officials on Wednesday to discuss ways in which the haze could be addressed.

“Malaysian-owned companies operating in Indonesia should abide by all local laws and regulations and ensure they do not contribute to environmental degradation,” the statement said as reported by Bernama.

Department of Environment (DOE) director-general Datuk Halimah Hassan would also meet her Indonesian counterpart soon to express Malaysia’s worry about the situation there, said the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.

The ministry said the forest fires raging there had caused haze in Peninsular Malaysia since June 15.

It said the DOE had alerted the National Security Council to activate the haze management coordination committee in badly affected areas.

The ministry reiterated that open burning was banned in all areas in Selangor, Malacca and Johor except for activities such as cremation and religious purposes.

In a statement, the DOE urged the public to report open burning or fires to the Fire and Rescue Department at 999 or the DOE at 1-800-88-2727.

Meanwhile, the MCA would send a protest note next week to the Indonesian embassy through its Crisis Relief Squad (CRSM) to register its unhappiness over the republic’s failure to deal with the problem.

“This situation has become an annual affair, which should not happen at all. The Indonesian authorities should take appropriate steps to curb this,” CRSM chief Datuk Dr Lee Hong Tee told a press conference.

He said CRSM had started distributing 56,000 face masks to students in Johor, Malacca and Negri Sembilan.

MCA central committee member Loh Seng Kok said Indonesia should carry out cloud seeding as well as ratify the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said the Environmental Quality Act must be amended to allow action against Malaysian or foreign companies which directly or indirectly played a part in causing forest fires in Indonesia.

He said transboundary haze had been recurring for over 20 years, with Malaysia suffering two severe hazes in 1997 and 2005.