The lack of government seriousness in fight the worsening haze situation is reflected by statements like the one by the chairman of the Malaysian Tourism Board, Datuk Hanafi Ramli over the weekend that the worsening haze problem would not discourage foreign tourists from coming to Malaysia.
How can such a tactless and inconsiderate statement be made when MAS flights are cancelleed, delayed and retimed causing enormous inconveniences to the travelling public and creating havoc among the public at airports, ships using the Straits of Malacca warned to exercise extra care as visibility is less than 1 km, countrywide there has been a great increase of air-related ailments undermining the health of Malaysians of all ages, and schools which re-opened today have been advised to stop all physical activities and sports and to keep the students indoors to safeguard their health.
There was heavy traffic on the roads yesterday and many motorists using the North-South Expressway complained that they suffer a sense of oppression of the spirit and depression as a result of the enveloping haze, which considerably reduced visibility on the roads.
For the first time in Malaysian history, the air pollutant index (API) in five towns yesterday breached the very unhealthy level of 200, with Gombak being the worst-affected area where the reading shot up to 243 at 5 p.m., while the API for Kuala Lumpur rose to 224 from 182 the previous day, Petaling Jaya to 200 from 161, Klang to 216 from 169 and Nilai to 212 from 162.
Other towns with unhealthy air quality are Kajang (183), Seberang Prai (119), Ipoh (146), Malacca (194), Shah Alam (188), Johore Bahru (104) and Kemaman (127).
Under the Malaysian Air Pollution Index, readings from zero to 50 indicate good air quality, 51 to 100 moderate, 101 to 200 unhealthy, 201 to 300 very unhealthy and 300 to 500 hazardous.
The National Haze Committee appears to be completely helpless in the face of the worsening haze situation, although the country had been enveloped by the haze for several weeks.
I welcome the prompt response of the Information Minister, Datuk Mohamed Rahmat in his capacity as Chairman of the National Disaster Management Committee to my proposal on Saturday that the government should declare a national emergency as a result of the worsening national haze.
Mohamad Rahmat said yesterday that the National Disaster Management Committee would meet today and consider action from all aspects to counter the haze before declaring a state of emergency if the situation worsened.
However, the question uppermost in the minds of all Malaysians suffering from the national haze is why the government is so slow, so ineffective and even so indifferent to the worsening haze situation after weeks of the problem. Over the weeks, various assurances had been given by various authorities about anti-haze measures that would be taken but they have all come to nought.
The time has come for the government to immediately make public the Clean Air Action Plan which the Department of Environment (DOE) had drawn up three years ago, to let the Malaysian people decide whether they want the Plan to be immediately implemented as a long-term solution to worsening air pollution in the country to ensure sustainable development in Malaysia which protects the environment.
It is also most regrettable that the Indonesian Government has been allowed to get off so lightly for the haze problem it had caused to neighbouring ASEAN countries as a result of forest fires in Indonesia. If Malaysia had been the cause of such national haze problem and disaster to Indonesia, I do not think the Indonesian authorities would have been so polite and courteous about the harm Malaysia is causing to her neighbouring countries.
Malaysia should demand that the Indonesian Government bear responsibility for the national haze disaster it had caused to the other ASEAN neighbouring countries, as Indonesia cannot disclaim responsibility for the transboundary pollution and the hardships it has caused to Malaysians as a result of the worst haze in the country.