(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): The time has come for the government to stop giving confusing statements about the Clean Air Action Plan - whether the Cabinet had approved such a plan, whether it is being implemented in stages, or whether it had been rejected by Cabinet when it was first proposed in 1994.
One commercial firm taking full advantage of the national haze disaster and the peopleís concern about its long-term health effects has taken a full-page advertisement for its product, highlighting the Star report of September 27, 1997, under the heading "Ministry to look at clean air action plan again", which said:
Kuala Lumpur: The Science, Technology and Environment Ministry will resubmit the Clean Air Action Plan which was scrapped by the Cabinet three years ago, its minister Datuk Law Hieng Ding said yesterday.
"We are looking at the action plan again to gather suggestions which can still be used," he told reporters after Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahimís visit to the Fire and Rescue Department headquarters here.
Law said under the proposed action plan, the minister would have wider powers to enable him to "help the people".
Several environmental groups including the World Wide Fund for Nature had recently called on the government to implement the plan to effectively address air pollution in the country.
Under the plan submitted in 1994, a series of programmes were proposed by the Department of Environment to combat air pollution including getting industries to switch to natural gas as alternative fuel and locating new factories in non-congested and non-residential areas.
Other measures included compelling both diesel and petrol vehicle manufacturers to meet DOE standards besides mandatory installation of catalytic converters to ensure use of unleaded petrol.
The action plan was, however, scrapped by the Cabinet that year due to the unexpected high costs industries would incur to meet emission reduction standards.
The 1994 paper also mentioned a RM10 million study conducted on air quality management in the Klang Valley in 1992.
The study showed that air quality in the Klang Valley would worsen by the year 2005 if steps were not taken to ease traffic congestion and compel industries to switch to eco-friendly fuels.
However, during the three-day Parliamentary debate on the national haze disaster, Parliament was told both by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Datuk Law that the Clean Air Action Plan proposed to the Cabinet in 1994 was being "implemented in stages".
This is in clear contradiction to the earlier statement made by Law that the Clean Air Action Plan had been scrapped by Cabinet in 1994, and which is used as a full-page commercial advertisement in the local newspapers.
Law Hieng Ding should make a clear statement about the Clean Air Action Plan, firstly whether the Cabinetís decision in 1994 to reject it had been subsequently modified by the Cabinet to "implement it in stages".
Secondly, what is this Clean Air Action Plan which is being "implemented in stages".
Thirdly, why has this Clean Air Action Plan not been made public so that the Malaysian public in general and environmental groups in particular could give their inputs as to whether it is equal to the task of assuring clean air for Malaysians and to ensure that the 1997 haze would be the last worst haze in the country.
Fourthly, is the Clean Air Action Plan being "implemented in stages" a Plan for the Klang Valley or for the whole country.
The Department of Environment should be open, accountable and transparent about the Clean Air Action Plan and let Malaysians know how a Clean Air Action Plan rejected by the Cabinet in 1994 could be "implemented in stages" without anyone, whether Parliament or NGOs, knowing about it.