Asean must meet on transboundary haze


In our rather difficult and complicated world, if countries should ever meet whenever there is a crisis, then I think this is the right time.

Now, today and not tomorrow!

This is not a political crisis, but a death-threatening health crisis.

This is the right time because there is again a more serious threat to the health and well-being of each and every citizen in these countries in the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region, not only Malaysia, but also Thailand, Singapore and particularly Indonesia, and in a matter of time in other countries in the region soon.

The much dreaded transboundary haze or smog is here — yet again!

Haze or smog pollution is the common enemy right in front of us.

Malaysia and Indonesia are suffering the most at the moment.

However, Bangkok and Jakarta have always been polluted, by their vehicles and factories as well.

Their citizens must have been suffering in silence all these years, the pollution levels breaking records ever so often there.

Babies and young children, senior citizens, pregnant mothers, the sick, particularly those with heart or lung problems, are very much affected by haze and smog brought about by the burning of forests and the annual burning of lands for huge plantations especially.

Asean countries must take this recurring problem more seriously this time as they have met a few times over the years, but most unfortunately it appears that no concrete, firm and effective action was taken.

We certainly would like these Asean countries to meet and talk, but a firm stand must be taken.

This recurring pollution problem must be solved once and for all.

A definitive action is certainly in order.

An action that will produce satisfactory and effective result is all that the citizens of these affected countries would ask for.

No more and no less.

Many countries have strict laws on pollution and burning, but enforcement seems to be a problem, particularly in developing or underdeveloped countries.

So this issue must be addressed very seriously and solutions found.

There is no point for all the pleasantries expected at these meetings, but a serious joint effort to tackle this health problem by a treaty which will make enforcement a serious matter and will deter people from committing acts detrimental to human health and the economy of the countries.

Happiness or appreciation, displeasure or anger is often expressed on polling day.

As elections are expected in these countries, deeds and not words do speak volumes for all which aspire to win the elections at all levels.

I am confident that Malaysia together with Singapore will be able to play a key role in gradually making the recurrent pollution a thing of the past.

If nothing is done by the Asean countries now, the haze will get worse.

Miri alone recorded an API (Air Pollutant Index) reading of 390 at 9am yesterday! That is a very hazardous level.

Does that not sound like a serious warning?

  Datuk Seri Ang Lai Soon is a social activist.