(Jinjang North, Monday): The DAP has launched the "Clean Air For Our Children - Let 1997 Haze be the last worst haze" with the primary objective to ensure that we do not repeat the mistakes of the 1990, 1991 and 1994 haze.
Since the 1990 haze, the government had been talking about a "haze contingency plan" which had never materialised despite the haze becoming increasingly worse in 1991, 1994 and now 1997.
After the "bad" 1990 haze, the government set up the Haze Action Committee which included representatives from the Ministries of Science, Technology and Environment, Health, Transport and Rural Development as well as the Police, Meteorological Services Department and universities.
In August 1991, the chairman of the National Haze Committee, Peter Chin Fah Kui, who was then the Deputy Minister for Science, Technology and Environment, announced that the committee had considered a "haze contingency plan" and one of the measures was to stop commercial vehicles from entering the city for a certain period to reduce smoke emissions.
Another method was temporarily restricting cars with even registration numbers from entering the city on certain days and those with odd numbers on other days.
Other proposals in the plan were the temporary closure of certain roads to traffic as well as closure of factories which emitted smoke.
But such a "haze contingency plan" remained very hazy, although the haze became worse and worse over the years, with the Air Pollutant Index (API) in the Klang Valley remained for long periods in the "unhealthy", "very unhealthy" and even "hazardous" levels.
DAP has launched the mass signature campaign for "Clean Air for our Children - Let 1997 Haze be the last worst haze" for we do want the haze in 1998, 1999 or 2,000 to beat the 1997 Haze in their life and health-threatening nature.
This mass signature campaign is to serve notice on the government and the nation that the issue of clean air, water and healthy environment is no more a marginalised issue but has become a mainstream national concern, and that government policies must be adjusted and reviewed accordingly.
Up to now, the Ministry for Science, Technology and Environment is one of the most unimportant Ministries - but with the people regarding environment as one of the mainstream national issues, the importance of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment must accordingly be upgraded.
If the Ministry for Science, Technology and Environment had been one of the "heavy-weight" Ministries, then its proposals would have been given more serious consideration.
If the Cabinet had approved the Clean Air Action Plan of the Department of Environment three years ago, the air pollution crisis today would not be so bad. This is why we must admit that it is the convergence of smoke from the forest fires in Indonesia and local sources of vehicular and factory emission as well as dust from earthworks and open burning which have created the haze isaster being faced by Malaysians.
In this connection, let the five Cabinet Ministers who had opposed and blocked the approval of the Clean Air Action Plan three years ago on the ground that industry could not afford it come forward to justify their position, for they had undoubtedly contributed directly to the country being faced with the worst haze disaster in the nation's history.
Malaysians are entitled to know who are the Cabinet Ministers who are not committed to the goals of sustained development and environmental quality as to block the Clean Air Action Plan threeyears ago, which could have saved the country from the present national haze disaster.
It is indeed most shocking that up to now, the Clean Air Action Plan is still a secret document protected by the Official Secrets Act. I call on the Cabinet to immediately make public the Clean Air Action Plan to make use of the national haze emergency to create public awareness of the need to declare a war against air pollution and to highlight the right of Malaysians to clean air and water.
This should be carried out by enacting tough legislation as well as making full use of the latest advances in clean air technology.