Sunday, June 21, 2009

Haze In Penang, June 2009

The picture on the left is taken a few days ago [June 20, 2009] from my apartment aiming at the Penang International Airport. I can't see any airplanes :-(.

In these past few weeks, there were many newspaper reports on the haze problem.

I wondered why we keep having this haze problem??

Well it is caused by open burning in Sumatra !! That is what almost everyone in Malaysia says especially politicians. Sounds like a very easy answer to escape from being responsible and accountable on this issue.

On the other hand, Indonesian officials says that is not true. It happens in Indonesian soil but culprits are not Indonesians!

" ... Indonesian Consul-General in Malaysia Moeni Soenanda told Malaysian reporters this month that "checks" revealed that "none of the companies" involved in open burning were Indonesian.

"The companies involved in illegal logging and open burning are all foreign," he said without naming any company.

Anyway, I don't remember facing haze some 10 or 15 years ago during my schooling days. Is open burning a new phenomenon ? I don't think so. I wondered why only now we are having this issue of haze due to open burning. This article has the answer

"In the past, open burning did not lead to haze since land clearing exercises were always timed with the seasonal changes. after the land clearing exercise, the rainy season would avail itself on time ..."

Oops !! looks like mother nature have stopped clearing up the mess we are creating. Just look at the many damages that we are doing to our beloved earth and expect mother earth to correct them. We have taken too many things for granted especially our environment.

Unfortunately, open burning does not happen in Sumatra alone. We have our fair share of open burning incidents.

The Selangor state government is taking some actions on this. But this is very short-term solution. It seems that open burning is a cheap way for farmers to clear their land. So they are going to continue with it. Can the government work closely with these farmers to avoid open burning? I guess that will ensure a sustainable solution and the key learning can be proliferated to other states of Malaysia as well as to our Indonesians government and farmers.

According to this blog post, Indonesian government is taking lots of actions too, unfortunately it does not seems to be effective.

Interestingly there is something called ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, an environmental agreement between all ASEAN nations signed in 2002 and became into force on November 25, 2003. Unfortunately Indonesia, despite being the main 'player' for the whole issue, has not ratified the agreement. I wonder why ??

I guess what is key now is not trying to understand how to solve it, probably many experts have provided the suggestions and recommendations, but rather executing them. All the countries must show strong will to address and resolve this issue, starting with getting Indonesia to ratify the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution as soon as possible.

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