• YB Wong Chen

Malaysia must use global standards to measure haze — Wong Chen

By YB Wong Chen featured on Malay Mail (27 September 2015) SEPTEMBER 27 – I recently spent three days in Singapore and noticed that the Air Pollutant Index (API) readings in Singapore were much higher than those in Johor Baru. Upon returning to Malaysia last night, I appealed to my Facebook readers for possible explanations. After verification with several news sources and academic papers, it appears that the main source of the big discrepancy in measurements between Malaysia and Singapore, is that the Barisan Nasional government is using a lower standard of API measure. Most countries, including Singapore and Indonesia now measure particulate matter of 2.5 microns or PM2.5. Malaysia is still measuring particulate matter of 10 microns or PM10. This practice results in overall and substantially lower measurements in Malaysia. This in turn creates a more positive but ultimately illusory picture of the state of our nation’s air quality. The greater travesty in this action is that the Barisan Nasional government has completely failed to take into account the greater health dangers posed by the smaller air particles of PM2.5, which may lodge in your lungs and enter the bloodstream. I therefore urge the Barisan Nasional government to start publishing PM2.5 data in accordance with regular standards of many countries. These PM2.5 data are currently available in DOE stations in Putrajaya, Banting, Cheras, Langkawi and Kuching and must be released on an hourly basis starting from now. I also note with great disappointment that this issue is in fact not new and was raised in a Star newspaper report “Clearing the Air” dated 12th November 2012. In the said report, the DOE said that PM2.5 will only be implemented four years later, by 2016. The relevant portion of the report is quoted verbatim below: “On its part, DOE said that it is in the process of developing new ambient air quality standards that will include PM2.5 under its Clean Air Action Plan. “Under the schedule of implementation of the plan, the monitoring of PM2.5 will be incorporated into the existing network of air quality monitoring stations by 2016,” said director-general, Halimah Hassan, in an e-mail statement.”

Lastly, I also ask that the Pakatan Harapan governments in Penang and Selangor to immediately set up PM2.5 measurement facilities as an alternative to the DOE and produce hourly reports.

Please note that I am not advocating a public health scare. But the basic principle here is that the public must first be fully informed on the air quality, so that they can then choose to mitigate their own risks when pursuing activities outdoors. The act of white washing the haze will not with any certainty, improve economic or tourist numbers but it will, with certainty, exact a heavy healthcare and human costs on the uninformed public. * Wong Chen is Member of Parliament for Kelana Jaya.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.