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Put in place measures to prevent haze again, the NGO says

KUALA LUMPUR: An NGO called for rigorous enforcement against open fire to eliminate perennial haze in the region.

Ecotourism & Conservation Society Malaysia (ECOMY) states that haze is created by man and its resolution lies in the prevention of the activities that cause it.

“Authorities will need to have a stronger application in place to prevent open combustion and haze even before a single fire starts,” said Andrew Sebastian, founder and CEO of ECOMY.

He also said that indiscriminate compensation must stop and that fossil fuel intensive initiatives should not be encouraged.

Haze has been a norm in the region for the past two decades and many people seem to have accepted it as an inevitable danger, he added, adding that this should not be the case in an era of development and environmental awareness.

In the past two decades, with the exception of a few years, the haze has occurred between July and October, with as many as 10 hotspots reported in Malaysia and 627 in Kalimantan in Indonesia during a year.

The haze has been attributed mainly to fires and land reclamation by burning for agricultural purposes. The remediation and drainage of peat lands have been identified in particular as one of the main causes of peat fires which are more difficult to extinguish.

Sebastian noted that in March 2019 a large fire in the peat bog in Terengganu lasted over 14 days while in 2013 a large fire occurred in the Raja Musa forest in Selangor, presumably started by a remediation company for the cultivation of palm from oil.

“With human-induced climate change – which has seen a 40% increase in carbon emissions since the industrial revolution and will see another expected increase of 0.6 to 1 degree by 2030 – such forest fires and resulting haze are only got worse, “He said.

In addition to the fires caused by land reclamation, other sources of forest fires include accidents caused by illegal invaders of these areas and their activities.

In an interview with BernamaDatuk, dr. A. Xavier Jayakumar, minister of water, land and natural resources, spoke of the various measures taken by the government to protect forests and their resources, including wildlife.

In addition to establishing the National Center for Biodiversity which will act as a research center on, inter alia, the country’s rich biodiversity and the importance of maintaining it, the government also plans to increase the number of geoparks in the country.

Several protected areas in Malaysia have been transformed into geoparks such as the Langkawi Unesco Global Geopark and the Kinta Valley Geopark, he said.

He said five more geoparks will soon be established and that Johor, Pahang, Kedah, Perlis and Labuan are excited to create similar parks.

On the issue of enforcement, Xavier Jayakumar said that stronger collaboration with NGOs in safeguarding the Malaysian forest has seen a drop in illegal jungle activities.

In particular, he praised the collaboration given by the Orang Asli in the fight against poaching and wildlife trade. A dog unit was also set up to track these activities.

Two forest clean-up operations, Ops Belang and Operasi Bersepadu Khazanah, conducted by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) together with the police and several NGOs saw 82 poachers arrested.

The government plans to further tighten the laws governing punishment for illegal jungle activities, including the proposal for higher penalties and terms of imprisonment.

Amendments to the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 and the National Forestry Act 1984 will be presented in parliamentary sessions in March and November respectively, he said. – Bernama

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