Monday, October 16, 2006

Poison Air over Kuala Lumpur

There is no double meaning behind that title. IT is what it is. The quality over Kuala Lumpur remains dirty. I guess gossip was right in saying that Malaysian would grab anything that is free. In this case, it is the free smog courtesy of Indonesia.

The media of Malaysia are starting to ignore the smog/haze. Last week, I read about the tourism minister getting upset over the fact that the Australian and most European consulates had issued travel advisories about visiting Malaysia. He was saying how angry he was for being singled out, when the situation was equally bad in Singapore and Brunei. But, what he did not say, is that the government of Singapore has been more proactive in protecting its visitors against the poison air. For example, health advisories and health screens were stepped up. The media in Singapore spoke about the impending danger of breathing the noxious air. As a middle class foreigner, I have not experienced any kind of concern expressed towards my health. All that had happened was the thumping health expense that’s now exceeded my budget thanks to demand-supply relationship of the cost of medical care.

A concerned Malaysian named S. C. Chea writes:

First of all I must say that it is unusual that all English newspapers here including yours have chosen the word "haze" to describe this unhealthy air that has been produced annually by Indonesia since the 90s and that flows across the Malacca Straits to pollute neighbouring countries. "Haze" should not be associated with air pollution. The proper word for it is "smog" which is really atmosphere with suspended micron-size particulates wheras haze is atmosphere with condensed water vapour which was commonly experienced at places like Templar's Park in the 50's, 60's and even in the early 70's.

Having said this, the other thing is that we seem to have accepted its annual occurrence as if the two seasons in this country are not the rainy season and dry season, but the rainy season and smoggy season, and it is alright with us. Come on, what is wrong with Malaysia and all of us? Let us make no bones about this. Indonesia is the culprit. No need to make excuses for her - she is poor, she has wide territories to govern blah, blah. Even the Director-General of Tourism Malaysia said that the situation is not alarming.

The health of this nation must not be negotiable. Indonesia is responsible for causing untold damage to the health of our children and feeble senior citizens whether it is Indonesians doing the burning or Malaysian companies in Indonesia doing it. It is coming from the soil of Indonesia wafting across the Straits to pollute our air.

This problem is exactly like nations sharing the same river system. The country on the upper reaches of the river polluting the river is deemed to have committed an act of war to the country on the lower reaches of the river. Trans-border pollution whether polluting the water of another nation or the air of another must never be tolerated or condoned. The most recent case is the chemical contamination of a river in northern China which also runs through Russia to the Baltic Sea. Here is a one-off case and yet China has to pay damages to Russia. In Malaysia's case it is an annual affair since the 90's and it is alright with us because compared with other places it
is not too bad! The mentality of all of us is nothing if not amazing. We shouldn't and mustn't accept that Indonesia is too poor to do anything about it. Being poor is no licence to commit such atrocities!

S.C. Cheah

Very rightly, s/he points out some interesting facts.

1. People in Malaysia are getting complaisant about the fact that they are being systematically poisoned yearly. People do not realize that the smog carries with it long term respiratory complications including the increased susceptibility to lunch cancer.

2. The Malaysian media is not doing enough as an independent body to highlight the smog.
3. There a lot of political finger pointing with no real action. I would have expected some senior delegate to be in Indonesia right now to discuss the end to this atrocity. But, nothing of that sort is happening. Even if it was, the media is not saying anything about it.
4. Polluting the air around your nation is an act of war. I wonder how Singapore will react if Malaysia was to poison their water will just a little bit or arsenic.
5. How differently would Malaysia and Brunai have reacted if it was Singapore and not Indonesia that was causing the smog (I will leave my allusion to your imagination)

Every one seems to think that the rain will clear the smog away. How foolish can some “educated” people in important positions get? Nothing is going to change unless you stop the root cause of the smog. The burning in Indonesia MUST STOP immediately.


disco-very said...

yes! the apathy surrounding our situation is just appalling. never saw it the way you did until i read your last point, the singapore comparison. that is SO true!!!

Anonymous said...

Singapore so good mei???~!~

tkj said...

Yikes man, that is rough. I used to live in Singapore for a couple years and there was a haze problem for a while too (due to forest fires) that were just attrocious to deal with, but you're definitely spot on about the disparity between the proactiveness of the governments.

Steph said...

I like the fact that you're bringing up all these very relevant points and making valid comparisons.

I was wondering if there is any petition yet regarding this matter? If the government is not making enough effort, I think the people should fight even harder for the government to get down into actions.

to anonymous,
No, Singapore is not so good, but Singaporeans make great efforts and strive to make Singapore a better country.

Malaysia is a great country but Malaysians are too complacent to do what's need to be done and too proud to admit their mistakes. The way I see it, Singapore may not be "so good", but the governments is definitely more proactive and successful as compared to the Malaysian government.

I do not despise my own country. I am just dissapointed.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

This is so sad....

astrorat said...

Dear disco-very,

Glad am able to offer an alternate view of things!

Dear Anonymous,

Stephanie seems to have provided you with an answer in that though Singapore is not that grand, people there do make a conscious effort to do something about it.

Dear tkj,

i like the way you put it "disparity between the proactive ness of governments". That really is what makes Singapore, despite its "kiasuness", world class.

Dear Stephanie,

I agree. Singapore is way ahead of Malaysia in how it responds to its citizens and its visitors needs.

I too agree that i do not despise Malaysia, but am deeply disappointed.

Dear Dr. Deb,

The good news is that monsoon season has started. This means that the change in wind direction has brought clean air from the south china sea (i guess). Sadly, this cycle of blame is going to continue.