Jaya, Thursday): The
Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad should lead the Malaysian
delegation to the Johannesburg Earth Summit beginning next week to prod for
greater international will and action to deal with environmental disasters with
the return of the haze to Malaysia and the threat of the Asian Brown Cloud.
Malaysia, the return of the haze has brought back one million masks to be
distributed in Sarawak; selective Air
Pollutant Index (API) readings which are classified under the Official Secrets
Act (OSA) and unpleasant memories of the 1997 haze when a state of emergency was
declared in Sarawak after the API
reached an all-time high of 800 with visibility no more than a few hundred
calls on the Minister for Science and Environment, Datuk Law Hieng Ding to take
immediate steps to declassify API
readings to win public confidence with a policy of transparency, by making such
readings easily accessible to the people at various parts of the country several
times a day.
week, an United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
report, based on a study by 200 scientists, warned that a dense blanket
of pollution, dubbed the "Asian Brown Cloud," is hovering over South
Asia and that it could kill
millions of people in the region and poses a global threat.
cocktail of aerosols, ash, soot and other particles, the Asian Brown Cloud’s reach extends far beyond the study zone of the Indian
subcontinent, and towards East and Southeast Asia. This is because while many
scientists once thought that only lighter greenhouse gases, such as carbon
dioxide, could travel across the Earth, they now say that aerosol clouds can
cloud, estimated to be two miles (three kilometers) thick, is responsible for
hundreds of thousands of deaths a year from respiratory disease.
slashing the sunlight that reaches the ground by 10 to 15 percent, the choking
smog has also altered the region's climate, cooling the ground while heating the
atmosphere. It has led to some
erratic weather, sparking flooding in Bangladesh, Nepal and northeastern India,
but drought in Pakistan and northwestern India.
There are also global implications, not least because the three-kilometres-thick
pollution parcel can travel half way round the globe in a week.
United States President Bush has announced his boycott of
the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg or “Rio +
10” to mark the 10th anniversary of the land Eargth Summit in Rio
de Janeiro in 1992 – the latest
in a series of irresponsible US unilateralism abnegating US
treaty commitments, , including
the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the
International Criminal Court, the Kyoto Accords on Climate Change and the
Protocol to verify the Biological Weapons Convention.
is no reason however for Mahathir
to turn his back on the Earth Summit, especially as there could not be many
heads of governments who had attended the Earth
Summit in Rio de Janeiro a decade ago.
1992, heads of state gathered in the South American metropolis to set optimistic
goals for reversing some of Earth’s most threatening problems: global warming,
species extinction and consumerism’s waste of the planet’s resources.
few of the Rio goals have been met. By many measures, Earth’s condition have
worsened. Global temperatures and sea levels creep upward as
heating-trapping pollution accumulates in the atmosphere.
Deforestation and species losses mount.
deaths from four leading infectious diseases, including measles and diarrhea,
have declined since Rio, 60 million people have been infected with AIDS, with 20
million deaths. An additional 45
million infections are predicted in the next 8 years, largely in Africa.
his 21 years on the world stage as well as having
participated in the first Earth
Summit in Rio 1992, Mahathir should attend the Johannesburg Earth Summit to
impress on the international community the urgent need for international
political will and concrete action to deal
with environmental disasters like
the Asian Brown Cloud and the catastrophe
awaiting planet Earth should humanity prove unequal to the environmental
challenges confronting them.