Douse that fire, warns DOE

The Star, 4 Mar 2014

PETALING JAYA: The Department of Environment is serious about stamping out open burning in this difficult time of haze and drought.

DOE would take legal action over open burning at construction sites, farms or industrial areas, said director-general Datuk Halimah Hassan.

Even lesser open burning cases, such as someone setting fire to rubbish, will not be ignored.

“In such cases, the culprit will be fined,” she said.

The penalty is RM2,000 for the offence.

The DOE activated its Open Burning Prevention Action Plan last month, which provides for these measures.

It had increased its patrols, especially in areas that were identified as fire risks, Halimah said.

“Also, we have issued letters to municipal councils responsible for landfills, urging them to ensure that no burning takes place at these sites,” she said.

Halimah said the DOE would carry out awareness campaigns to remind people to refrain from open burning.

Pollution Monitoring Teams are also being set up among local communities to assist the DOE.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel said the DOE had recorded 964 cases of open burning in the past two months.

He said 307 cases had been on agricultural land, followed by small-scale burning (232), bush (209), forest (142), industrial areas (18) and waste disposal sites (18).

“During the same period, the culprits in 84 cases were fined while those responsible in 29 cases were given warning notices,” he said.

The DOE is keeping an eye on haze conditions by monitoring the air quality at 52 stations throughout the country.

The Fire and Rescue Department is also calling for a stop to open burning.

Its director-general Datuk Wan Mohd Nor Ibrahim said peat and bush fires stemming from the dry spell were contributing to the haze.

On top of that, irresponsible farmers, plantation owners and land developers were making the situation worse when they set fires to clear land or get rid of rubbish, he said.

“In the first three days of March, we responded to 462 cases of peat, bush and open fires,” Wan Mohd Nor said.

“Last month there were 9,424 cases, compared to 440 in February last year.”

The firemen are also finding it difficult to do their work due to the water crisis in some states.

“Fighting the open fires was a problem, but now we are also facing the difficulty of putting out structural fires in areas affected by water shortage,” Wan Mohd Nor said.

He said fire-stations also had to deal with multiple cases at a time.

The firemen also get support from other agencies, such as Rela and the Civil Defence Department.

Between 8am on Sunday and 8am yesterday, Johor recorded 89 cases (highest), Kedah 65, Selangor 65, Malacca 56, Perak 52, Pahang 32, Negri Sembilan 31, and Terengganu 23.