Cabinet agrees to transboundary haze law, says MESTECC

By AFIQ AZIZ / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

THE Cabinet has given the green light for lawmakers to formulate a transboundary haze law, which will allow the government to act against Malaysian individuals and companies abroad who breach the law.

The law is expected to focus on precautionary, preventive and punitive elements to curb transboundary haze, said the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC) in a statement last Friday.

This will help Putrajaya in taking precautionary measures to combat the haze, which is transmitted from neighbouring countries and has been blanketing Malaysia every year.

“The process to draft this law has started and will involve various government agencies, stakeholders and experts. This is important as it involves the elements of security, geopolitics, data security and some other agencies across multiple ministries,” MESTECC said.

The country suffered from the haze for over two months last year, which triggered the ministry to begin drafting the law.

The haze is often attributed to open burning of oil palm and pulp plantations in Indonesia, the cheapest method to clear land plots.

Several Malaysian companies operating oil palm estates in Indonesia were also blamed for contributing to the haze although the planters had denied these claims.

MESTECC said the government had to fork out billions of ringgit worth of taxpayers’ money due to the thick haze.

It said in 2013 and 2015, the haze caused RM1.49 billion and RM1.16 billion in economic losses respectively.

“This did not include the cost of firefighting operations, cloud see-ding, cancelled flights, sports events, destruction of biodiversity and the threat of climate change,” the ministry said.

Malaysia has been actively involved in the efforts to halt the transboundary haze issue since 1997, it added.

This was followed by the government’s commitment to sign the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution in 2002 to reduce haze pollution in South-East Asia.

Although this is a legally binding environmental agreement signed by Asean member states, there are no clauses in the agreement that allow punitive measures to be taken against irresponsible parties.

“The new law will allow the authorities to monitor and carry out enforcement in a more efficient manner, especially on the companies and individuals from Malaysia to curb this transboundary haze pollution caused by uncontrollable plantation and forest burning,” MESTECC said.