Monday, June 24, 2013

The Haze....Clime or Crime?

It's very sad to see everything in Malaywsia wrapped in a whitish pall. The API reading has reached hazardous levels of over 800 in certain areas and hovered around 200 in other areas. Many schools in Johore Bharu and Selangor have been closed. Warnings have been issued to Malaysians to keep indoors and wear a mask if you've to go out into the street. Streets are becoming deserted, an eerie silence creeping into the Malaysian scene, especially at night. Except for a car or two breaking the silence in residential areas, they are becoming almost like ghost towns. One can expect the walking dead to totter around seeking a victim....

This has been happening to Malaysia year after year since the 90s. A lot of discussions and so-called negotiations between Indonesia, Malaysioa and Singapore have taken place but no results. In fact the haze gets thicker and more dangerous each time around. Now people are beginning to suffer saw eyes, sore throats etc in greater numbers. Cloud seeding has been started in Indonesia it is reported while the authority in Malaysia says there's no thick cloud to be seeded. Singapore has brought up the matter with the Indonesian government and the same reply has been given: that some land development companies with link to Malaysia have been undertaking open burning. Malaysia keep saying that the Indonesian government has been offered help to put off the fire outbreaks in Sumatra but no response has been received. The Indonesian government had already identified a few companies as suspects for causing the haze. But Malaysia has not undertaken any investigation itself on these suspected companies nor issue any warning to them, if they are indeed owned by Malaysian.

To us, the victims of the opening burning infraction of the environmental law, it doesn't matter who the culprits are. They should be hauled up under the law as quickly as possible, and perhaps kept in a smoke house to taste their own medicine for a few days or weeks. But that is easier said than done. Aside from the legal procedures involved to convict these slippery, big-time, land developers what happens to land development if they're stopped from doing their thing. The easiest way to clear up the jungle and the wild undergrowth is to cut, pile them up and burn them. Huge areas of land can be cleared up that way in a jiffy and at minima cost. If that is not allowed who'd bear the cost of clearing up the land in other ways? Have the government experts thought of that problem and not just issue orders to stop open burning. This reminds me of how the police try to avoid traffic jams in certain area by closing the road and diverting traffic elsewhere. You just create traffic jams elsewhere without solving the problem.

What's the alternative to open burning when clearing up the forests? An easy answer is to dig up some huge holes and bury the unwanted forest residue. If tree trunks and huge branches are buried that way, we might be even be creating coal for future generation.We can also create artificial fertilizer (compost) by burying the leaves from trees and ilalang. And how about chopping up and grinding the unwanted wood residue of the forest to make papers and other useful things? Hey, the government want people to be innovative but can't even solve the problem of clearing up the unwanted forest product!
Between Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, certainly something can be done quickly to solve the problem of open burning and stop the haze from burying us in a white pall. Undertake cloud seeding if you will. If there's no cloud, employ cloud machines to create the cloud.

As it is the haze is rumored to last until August. Can we all take it with Ramadhan coming up fast? This is the time to see how fast the new (or old) government can act. If it can't clear the haze enveloping the country quickly- a mere physical thing - can we clean up the nation of its ethical haze - corruption?


kaykuala said...

I often wonder what is really burning. The authorities blame it all on open burning by various companies. But you can't be burning oil-palm estates every year. So obviously these are tracts of forest areas being cleared. It must be large tracts, large enough to cause problems of a massive scale to 3 countries.
And it boils down to cost. It's cheaper to cause forest fires than to bulldoze all the big trees from hectares of jungle land.
The fires will continue to cause havoc as those enforcement units who are supposed to stop them are busy having their palms greased.
The political will to act is missing.The next best thing to do is to play the blame game which is what we're seeing now!


norzah said...

You said it loud and clear, Akhi kaykuala. I can think of no other reason why the Indonesian authorities do not take stern action on the culprits, if they had really been identified. Unless the Malaysian government is also protecting them.
What matters most is that the dilly-dollying game will not end the malady. It might certainly led to human tragedy now or in the near future when the any infection of the lung begins to cause serious problems.
Do we just sit around an wait to see how the palm greasing game can put off the fire?