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Monday, August 29, 2016

Haze a danger to health


The haze is a constant phenomenon faced by Malaysia and neighbouring countries such as Singapore and Indonesia. The haze is basically pollution of the atmosphere which is clogged with pollutants and other substances from forest fires.
The Air Pollutant Index (API) reading for today as of 12 noon is the highest in Nilai, Negri Sembilan at 79, Pasir Gudang at 74, Port Dickson at 70, Malacca City at 72, Putrajaya at 62 and Petaling Jaya at 51. Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar expects the haze this year to be milder compared to last year.
The haze is a direct effect of forest fire in Kalimantan and other parts of Indonesia due to slash and burn method farming. The Indonesian authorities appear to have no power to control farmers from practising such methods. There are 14 active fires in West Kalimantan, four active fires in Sarawak and 1 active fire in Sabah, West Sumatra and also Brunei derived from the NOAA satellite.
The haze is further worsened by open burning practised by most Malaysians. Open burning garbage done by the public are a few examples that done by Malaysian. Many are ignorant of the health effects of open burning.
During the haze, hospitals and clinic often report a dramatic increase in respiratory problems, lung infections and asthma attack. It is very dangerous for the child and older people to stay outside. Therefore, it is advisable for them to stay indoors and drink plenty of water. The API usually indicates the hazardous and dangerous levels of pollution during this period.
The haze has long-term side effects. Prolonged inhalation of polluted air will result in serious lung infection which particularly affects the elderly.
The government must play its role to reduce the haze treat. It has to cooperate with the Indonesian authorities to stamp out forest fires. The culprits must be brought to justice, either through healthy fine or prison sentence. Constant vigilance would ensure the perpetrators do not repeat their offence.
However, during the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, the Indonesian government promised to have its police force and fire bomber helicopter to quickly put out the forest fires once spotted. The Malaysian government has prepared to send Bombardier aircraft to Sumatra to assist the Indonesian authorities to tackle the problem there.
The government should also raise the public awareness of the danger of forest fire. A continuous campaign of the cause, solutions and steps-need-to-be-taken to reduce the haze needs to be promoted through all types of social media like television, radio, newspaper and even via the Internet. The authorities should also provide assistance to farmers and introduce more sophisticated forest clearing methods.
Every individual has to remember that we do not own the world, but instead we have borrowed it from our future generations. We must protect our world so that our grandchildren would have a healthy earth to live.

DEBBIE INJAN ANDREW JUMAT is research and policy executive, Forum Air Malaysia. -Mkini

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