MYROLE RTM1- Featured GrASS on 25 Jan 2011, 330pm

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Dear Friends,

We here at GrASS need your help to help us gather the below mentioned items to help us raise funds for our shelter and other independent pet rescuers.

The items are:

Scrap Paper
Old Newspapers
Old Magazines
Unwanted uncooked/raw Acidic Fruits ( Oranges, pineapples, lime,lemons)
Unwanted uncooked/raw fruits
Unwanted uncooked/raw Vegetables
Brown Sugar
Rice Bran
Red Earth
Glass Jars/Plastic containers with lids
Cardboard boxes (any other cardboard materials)
Aluminium Cans
Expired Food Products

For more ways on how or what items you can donate to help please visit HERE

Friday, July 17, 2009

Article: Settle this burning issue of haze, now

Friday July 17, 2009

Question Time by P GUNASEGARAM

Something's in the air these days and it's not really very nice – in fact it's downright dangerous and I am not talking about the swine flu. It is the particulates from burning taking place across the Straits of Malacca in Sumatra and in the Riau archipelago carried into Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand by the winds.

It irritates the throat, waters the eyes, increases the risk to asthma patients, multiplies respiratory ailments, raises the air pollution index to unhealthy levels, discourages tourism, puts a pall of gloom in the air and probably has resulted in more direct and indirect deaths than the total number of people killed throughout the world from the A (H1N1) or swine flu virus.

In 1997/98, a particularly bad period when visibility was so low that one could not see the building sitting across the road in Kuala Lumpur, total damage to the environment, health, tourism and other activities was estimated at a staggering US$9bil (RM32bil), most of it to Indonesia itself.

Since that year, the haze has recurred yearly in our part of the world. In addition to fires in Sumatra and Riau, there are others in Kalimantan. Mostly, the fires are due to clearing of land for agriculture.

Using fires to clear land is illegal in Indonesia, but many plantations and farmers routinely use this method for agriculture because it is the cheapest way. The perpetrators don't care for the health, economic and environmental damage they cause.

They are in effect aided by Indonesian authorities who routinely turn a blind eye to this practice and allow it to go on during the dry season. This burning has recurred every year since 1997 and sometimes has become extremely serious, such as in 2006.

Every year, the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore are blanketed in smoke from burning in Sumatra while parts of Sarawak and Brunei are affected by similar burning in the Indonesian part of Borneo.

Every year, when we are supposed to be enjoying blue skies and sunshine, and the sometimes unwelcome hot weather, we get instead gloomy skies, haze and smoke with unseasonably, intense thunderstorms from moisture in the air.

For weeks and months on end from June to September, we have to endure this until the advent of rains from October quells the fires and we move into the rainy season.

The thing that grates is that this whole episode repeated year in and year out is so easily preventable and this will benefit not only countries affected by the Indonesian burning but is most beneficial to Indonesia itself.

Following the major haze in 1997/98, Asean countries signed an agreement called the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution in 2002. That agreement provides a comprehensive basis for the control of haze in the region, imposing obligations on the countries to take appropriate measures where the haze could affect other countries.

However, to date, Indonesia, although a signatory, has not ratified the agreement, which means that the provisions of the agreement are not binding yet.

Thus, the main perpetrator of cross-border pollution is not clearly held to account.

Indonesia's stance previously has been that it tries to stop the fires but because of the dry weather and the nature of the fires, it is often very difficult to put out once the fires start. The truth is probably somewhere in between, and even by accounts in the Indonesian press itself, fires are most often started by farmers and plantations deliberately and then subsequently rage out of control.

While the short-term costs are lower when debris from land clearing is burnt, the long-term damage to the environment, health, tourism and other economic activities are much, much bigger than the costs.

While unremitting pressure should be put on Indonesia by all the other Asean countries to ratify the agreement, there should be a plan to help Indonesia as well.

Asean countries should seriously consider the setting up of a fund not just to put out fires after they start but to prevent it altogether. That means to stop the people whether farmers or plantations from starting the fires to burn the waste in the first place.

There are measures which can be employed to get rid of organic waste in an environmentally friendly manner. They can for instance be broken up into small pieces and spread on the ground in plantations and farms, providing a source of nutrients as they rot.

A properly administered system of incentives, subsidies and severe penalties will quickly shift plantations and farmers into adopting more environment-friendly measures as they directly gain or lose according to the methods they use.

But for all this to take place, Indonesia must be willing to be part of the process. Asean countries must do their part to pull Jakarta into the circle by applying pressure and by standing ready to provide technical and financial help as and when required.

Admittedly it's a delicate act which requires not just diplomacy, tact and negotiation but toughness, too. We cannot be pussyfooting around this issue forever as we have not had a haze-free dry season for more than a decade now.

We must extinguish this smouldering, burning issue once and for all.

Managing editor P Gunasegaram says take care of the environment and it will take care of us, too.

This article was taken from: The Star Online: News: Opinion 17 July 2009

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