Over the past decade, Malaysia has experienced industrial growth and urbanisation, and it aims to become a developed nation by next year.
This process benefited the economy.
However, as a consequence, human activities emit particulates and gasses that pollute the air.
To make things worse, the polluted air has been proven to correlate with human health, which subsequently degrades the quality of life.
Malaysia has had its fair share of poor air quality episodes.
Air pollution in Malaysia is unique. It is episodic, seasonal and transboundary.
Malaysia’s poor air quality was first associated with the haze in 1983, which caused severe disruptions to life.
The main cause of haze remained untold.
However, it was attributed to forest fires from neighbouring countries and the combustion of fossil and other fuels by industries, vehicles and households.
Since then, haze episodes have reoccurred, with the most recent one this month.
Air pollution is one of the main causes of climate change and has been attributed to killing eight million people worldwide annually.
According to a Universiti Malaya study, Malaysians’ perception of air quality is that “it is somewhat polluted, but causes no harm”.
This perception has to change as air pollution is a silent killer that penetrates and contaminates our organs, leading to death and diseases.
The World Health Organisation had reported that air pollution caused 6,251 deaths in Malaysia up to 2012.
Air pollution is responsible for one out of every nine deaths in Malaysia, making it one of the top causes of death.
The government has foreseen the importance of tackling air pollution.
It was listed in the second and 10th Malaysia Plans. A Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) was developed in the 9th Malaysia Plan to improve air quality.
At the 21st Technical Working Group and Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee Trans-boundary Haze Pollution meeting recently, Malaysia presented measures taken to prevent haze and open burning.
It has updated the National Haze Action Plan and implemented the National Open Burning Action plan that is expected to reduce haze and air pollution in Southeast Asia.
The government has put in efforts to tackle this problem.
However, the awareness among Malaysians of its dangers is lacking.
RESYA HANI AHMAD
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