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Has Abdullah to direct Adenan to announce hourly API reports before Malaysians are given meaningful regular updates of the haze catastrophe?

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Parliament, Friday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, was  clearly expressing his frustration yesterday when he directed the National Security Division (NSD) and the Department of Environment (DOE) to automatically declare a haze emergency once the Air Pollutant Index (API) breaches 500.

The Prime Minister said this was necessary so that authorities would not have to wait for his prior approval, adding : "Don't have to look for me. I may not be here as I may be abroad."

Yesterday, there were many hours of utter confusion and total lack of inter-government co-ordination when Kuala Selangor and Port Klang breached the emergency API 500 mark, with the world being informed through a foreign agency report that a haze emergency had been declared before there was an official confirmation several hours later.  This is the first time in the nation’s history where the world knew of an emergency in the country several hours before Malaysians themselves!


Although the  API readings released by the Department of Environment (DOE) showed that the API for Kuala Selangor and Port Klang were in the “emergency” zone of 531 and 529 respectively at 11 am yesterday, both areas would most likely had  breached the  emergency 500 API mark a few hours  earlier, raising the question why the Malaysian public, and in particular the people in the two affected areas, were not immediately informed at the first available opportunity through radio and television!


This in fact breached  one of the guidelines of a haze emergency, which requires the authorities concerned to “ensure the frequent dissemination of information of the API”  to Malaysians in general and the  people in the affected areas in particular!

The Natural Resources and Environment Minister, Datuk Seri Adenan Satem should disclose at what time Kuala Selangor and Port Klang breached the “emergency”  API 500 mark  yesterday and to give a undertaking that the DOE will announce  hourly API reports through radio, television and Internet from 7 am  to 7 pm.  Or will Adenan have to wait for a specific directive from the Prime Minister before he could direct the DOE to make hourly API announcements?

The announcement by the Deputy Information Minister Datuk Donald Lim Chiang Sai in Kangar yesterday that RTM will broadcast  24 hours daily over TVI information on the API in areas hit by haze is meaningless unless DOE releases hourly API readings.

At present, the DOE only releases the daily API readings for 11 am and 5 p.m.  I commend Utusan Malaysia as being the only newspaper in the country which carries three API readings yesterday, for 11 am, 3 pm and 5 pm.

The question Malaysians want to know is why DOE is not prepared to make public its hourly API readings, when this is done daily by its Singapore counterpart from 7 am to 7 p.m. on its Internet website?  Has Abdullah to direct Adenan to announce hourly API reports before Malaysians are given meaningful regular updates of the haze catastrophe?

DOE should in fact be even more responsible and transparent by making public the API details about the pollution levels of the five pollutants which make up the API - namely carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, ozone and particulate matter less than 10 microns (millionth of a metre) wide.

Carbon monoxide, a lethal gas, can cause (i) headache, dizzy spells; (ii) irregular heart beat and can even stop the heart, causing death; (iii) memory disturbances including memory impairment; (iv) muscular clumsiness and difficulty of vision-focussing - dangerous while driving and handling machinery; (v) damage to the heart and nervous system and cause heart attacks. The long-term effects of carbon monoxide poisoning are also very serious, such as (I) low birth weight  of off-spring if pregnant women are exposed to the gas; (ii) infant death and (iii) reduced fertility in both sexes.


The short-term and long-term effects to health from the dangerous pollution of the other constituents of the haze, such as sulphur dioxide, ozone and lead are also very serious.  The ozone pollutant may affect the functions of the lungs and result in chronic lung disease; sulphur dioxide will affect the breathing ability of asthmatic patients and  nitrogen dioxide will cause acute lung disease such as upper respiratory tract infection.



*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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