KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 12 (Bernama) -- Like in previous years, the issue on environment continues to get public attention in the country in 2005.
This year the haze returned, and seriously engulfed several states in the west coast of the peninsula, forcing the government to declare haze emergency in several areas.
Caused by forest fires in Indonesia, it happened at a time when various quarters in the Malaysian government, including non-governmental organisations, were toiling with programmes to preserve and conserve the environment.
Nevertheless there is a blessing to the haze problem - it led to Malaysia and Indonesia reaching a consensus on zero burning and education for the farmers.
Not that the farmers in Indonesia failed to realise the adverse effects of their open burning, but it was the cheapest and easiest way for land clearing.
Following an Asean agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, Malaysia and Indonesia agreed to work together to overcome the problem which, if not contained, could be hazardous to the health of the people in the region.
Towards this end too, various long term plans have been taken, including introducing a warning system, exchange of information and technology as well as to provide joint emergency response.
For a start, Malaysia had sent 128 firemen and members of the SMART team to Indonesia on Aug 15 to put out the fire which caused the haze problem.
Using the cloud-seeding technique, the Malaysian team together with the Indonesians, managed to put out the fire on a 25 hectare forest area with peat soil at Hilir Rokan.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Adenan Satem said recently that Malaysia was committed in efforts to conserve and preserve the environment and was prepared to provide technical aid to other Asean member countries to tackle the haze problem.
He said Malaysia's commitment to tackle the haze problem could also be seen through its active participation in conventions and seminars on environment as well as organising programmes to that effect.
The programmes, included the National Environmental Week and the setting up of environmental clubs in schools to inculcate early awareness on the need to preserve the environment among children.
Malaysian's commitment in efforts to upgrade quality of the environment was also be reflected in the government's allocation of RM1.9 billion in the 2006 Budget for conservation and management of solid waste.