Malaysia: Harsher punishment mulled for open burning

The Star 19 Feb 16;

PUTRAJAYA: Heavier penalties for open burning are being considered by the Government, says Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

He said the current compound of RM2,000 was “too small” a deterrent for offenders.

“Anyone who gets caught for committing open burning is fined RM2,000. For companies whose income is millions of ringgit, that RM2,000 is merely ‘pocket money’.

“Someone who is caught for domestic burning in the villages or behind their house probably will get a small compound, but those who commit large-scale open burning at plantations should be pena­lised a lot more,” said Dr Wan Junaidi at a press conference here yesterday.

Speaking to reporters after chairing a meeting with the national committee on haze at his ministry here, he said while the haze situation in the country was caused by fires in Indonesia, open burning in Malaysia made the situation worse.

Dr Wan Junaidi said a committee had been set up to determine the losses caused by the haze last year.

“This committee will translate the losses into ‘dollars and cents’ and will help ascertain how much we lost during the haze season,” he said.

The ministry in a statement said some four million students were affected when 7,646 schools were shut down during the haze.

Tourist arrivals to Malaysia also dropped by 4.4% in August last year, and 7.7% in September.

“The fishing industry also suffered losses as fishermen were unable to go out to sea due to the poor visibility.

“This is the kind of damage caused by the haze and we want to find out how much it cost,” said Dr Wan Junaidi, adding that the study would be completed in about three months.


Environment Department instructed to review open burning penalty regulations
AZURA ABAS AND FAZLEENA AZIZ New Straits Times 18 Feb 16;

PUTRAJAYA: The Natural Resources and Environment Minister has instructed the Environment Department to review its open burning penalty regulations.

Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the current blanket RM2,000 compound did not have the deterrence effect of stopping open burning.

"Now if you are big companies earning big profits, the RM2,000 compound is just pocket change for them and they can just use their petty cash to pay it," he told reporters after chairing the National Haze Committee meeting today which lasted for more than two hours.

Wan Junaidi said the compound amount should reflect the seriousness of the offence and should vary depending on whether it was done by an individual or a company.

The current compound of RM2,000 might only be appropriate for domestic open burning, he added.

Wan Junaidi also said today's meeting had approved the set up of two new sub-committees that were respectively tasked with studying the economic losses incurred by various sectors due to the haze as well as the standard operating procedures for haze.

Malaysia will be using two tools to measures particles at 2.5 micron or PM2.5 and read fine particles of less than 10 microns (PM10) for the Air Pollutant Index next year.

The sub committees are expected to complete their tasks in two months, and table it at the National Haze Committee meeting before it is brought to the Cabinet for approval, Wan Junaidi said.

“The SOP on haze will include when to do cloud seeding as well as the issuance of unhealthy level notices and health advisories.

“On the economic losses, we anticipate the study will take a bit longer but this is needed as plantation, agriculture, construction and tourism sectors have all suffered during the haze situation.

"So we need to compile the details and report to manage the haze situation as well as its outcomes,” he said, adding that the national committee was scheduled to meet three months to go through the finding from both committees.


Government Mulls Raising Compound Fine For Open Burning
Bernama 18 Feb 16;

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 18 (Bernama) -- The government mulls raising the compound fine imposed on those who committed open burning according to the scale of the activity in a bid to prevent the haze situation in the country from becoming rampant and serious.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said, right now, the compound fine for open burning was fixed at RM2,000 and it seemed inappropriate compared to the scale of the open burning reported.

As such, he ordered the Department of Environment to conduct a detailed study on the matter and to look into more suitable penalties.

He said in the case involving big companies with large profits, Wan Junaidi said it was only right that the compound fine imposed on them be higher than those imposed on individuals committing domestic open burning.

"So, this study is necessary. Although the haze is usually caused by fire in neighbouring country, legal action must be taken to ensure the situation in the country is not made worse," he said after chairing the National Haze Committee meeting here Thursday.

Meanwhile, Wan Junaidi said the meeting had decided to set up a committee to conduct a detailed study on the use of the technology on the measurement of the Air Pollutant Index (API), which often caused confusion among government agencies and the public.

He said the standardisation of the haze action plan encompassed the cloud seeding process, advisory on reducing outside activity and directive to close schools and institutions of higher learning.

"The standardisation of the haze action plan will help government agencies to issue accurate information to the public on measures to be taken during haze," he said.

The minister also announced the setting up of another committee to evaluate the losses suffered by various quarters when haze hit the country last year.

He said committee was expected to submit its report to the National Haze Committee in three months time before it was tabled to the Cabinet.

-- BERNAMA

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