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Letter to editor
31st October 2019


Let’s recap. We had 2 Pasir Gudang pollution incidents followed by few river pollutions that caused water treatment plants’ shutdown and recently haze. These different issues have striking similarities. Once the incident is over we tend to forget about it until such incident repeats itself again. Except lip service from responsible parties, no concrete solutions will come out of it. Haze itself has been happenings for more than 2 decades. In the recent Budget 2020 it was announce that RM 27 million is allocated to manage anti palm oil campaign and another RM 30 million to Department of Environment and Department of Chemistry to deal with pollution issues. Will we get value for money spent? To get the ball rolling, what happened to the “full report” on Sg Kim Kim and Pasir Gudang pollution?

Just look at how haze situation makes Malaysia a loser. It will start with denial followed by regretting statements. When pressure builds up in Malaysia, we get reply that it’s only few months but they (Indonesia) give clean air to breathe for the rest of the months. If further pressure is applied, Indonesia will name few Malaysian companies and then a short brouhaha. Finally, that forgetful attitude kicks in again until the same scenario repeats again the following year. This is a simplified version on how haze takes place in Malaysia.

Furthermore, can transboundary haze law help? Frankly, the minister in charge of environment should look at bigger picture and should not follow Singapore to enact a law on transboundary haze only. Malaysia should enact transboundary pollution law and haze is one of the element that can be included. A legal agreement of cooperation between our neighbours Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Philippines should follow suit. Use such collaboration to further get ASEAN to adopt Transboundary Pollution Cooperation Agreement to cover all type of pollution. Just look at Pasir Gudang situation. It is very simple to connect the dots and link to potential companies behind the pollution incident. But, no action was taken towards that. What will we do if hazardous chemicals cross national boundaries to pollute and maybe cause death in neighbouring country or vice versa. So, ASEAN needs to get a grip and place a better protection for its people compared to just going full steam ahead with just haze.

It is actually very easy to handle haze. This is what Malaysian government needs to do:
1.    Get list of all companies found guilty by Indonesia since 1990s.
2.    List all offender and repeated offenders to be listed on specific category for public knowledge.
3.    Government must issue a ban on products related to such companies (especially repeated offenders) this is a more effective economic punishment. You hit them where it is most painful via "name and shame" method.
4.    Create similar pressure throughout the world to ban bad companies and their investors. There are already a number anti palm oil cheerleaders that are more than willing to assist.
5.    Create 3 dimension pollution modelling and improved pollution index for areas with a lot of high rise residential areas. A single point analysis does not represent population that dwell in high rise. This is to ensure better pollution monitoring and emergency management.
6.    The government must also publish annual resources wasted to manage haze. These losses must be calculated from the year haze started and prevalent fixed deposit rate to be used annually to accumulate the losses until 2019. These include estimation of public and private medical expenses, government personnel tasked to handle haze situation, disruption of operation of public and private sector due to haze and other related fields. Finally, this is what the wrong doers owe our fellow Malaysians.
7.    Use ASEAN platform to claim the losses suffered by Malaysia all these years.

On the other hand, the anti palm oil campaign can be handled professionally and swiftly. Once Malaysia and ASEAN weed out the bad companies, there will be improved standing for the industry itself. If palm oil industry is wrongfully accused, get the facts straightened in a court case and use judicial review or other due processes to overturn the EU ban on use of palm oil for biofuel. If EU is defeated, this court verdict will become a free advertisement throughout the world and the industry can clear its name with style! Why use tax payers’ money? In Malaysia, we use palm oil in almost everything, why do a campaign here? The industry should be funding any activity to protect their interest.

Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (AWER) never expected the environmental and people welfare protection will drop to such deprived execution. It is more heartbreaking to see more focus is put on cheap publicity stunts. So, before any of the allocations are wasted, can the ministers in charge of palm oil and environment carry out the given suggestion by end of 2019? If both of you fail, please do the honourable act by gracefully vacating your respective portfolios to make way for those who can take the bull by its horn.

Piarapakaran S.
Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (AWER)














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