Malaysian Smog Politics

Smog in Malaysia

In 1997 the pollution readings in Malaysia hit the highest ever.  That is until 2015. In California, companies like San Pablo Smog in Oakland, CA keep a tight watch on the smog readings of cars. Vehicle standards in Malaysia are not nearly as high.

In 2015 smog in Malaysia has put a serious damper on the Malaysian economy by costing it hundreds of millions of dollars.  The 1997 smog crisis is estimated to have cost over 9 billion dollars.

The 1997 pollution crisis was caused by the poor air standard quality controls on industry and in particular the slash and burn techniques of Indonesian farmers.  This method of farming is very cheap and easy, but it produces toxic smog that in 1997 covered the entire peninsula and impacted malaysia horribly.

Politically this was heavily commented on by government ministers such as Environment Minister, Adenan Satem, and Commodities Minister, Peter Chin.

Both minsters met with Indonesian officials to try to mitigate the pollution and eventually the haze was lifted.

Officials from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, declared it a crisis that would have long lasting effects.

But this year in 2015, some academics are predicting that the pollution standards index readings will be higher than they were in 1997.

This affects many categories of economic activity such as:

  • Tourism dollars
  • Health costs. Long term and short term
  • Long term environmental costs and cleanup
  • Higher food prices

The Malacca Strait shipping lanes are even experiencing delays, because of poor visibility. School kids are being kept home , airplanes flights are being delayed and more.

The particulate readings have been really high as well, to unhealthy levels. In the U.S. for example particulate levels are kept lower by smog controls that are ameliorated by companies like San Pablo Smog.

It could even potentially cause new political friction between Singapore and Malaysia, if Singapore cannot get the forest fires under control. Singapore has tasked it’s NEA (National Environment Agency) with yolking in Indonesian companies who are violating the Tranboundary Haze Pollution Act, but those are long term actions and cannot produce immediate relief. The act has sanctions of $70,000 fines a day.

It may be that consumers and grass roots efforts are the best bet for solving the problem. Malaysia is considering new laws that will help keep the smog in check. Consumers are starting boycotts against companies that produce, source, or use manufacturing processes that contribute to the smog.

“The call for consumers to stop buying products from companies involved in purchasing or sourcing wood based products that cause the haze will pressure companies to be more responsible in buying or sourcing from sustainable sources,” “Consumers will send a strong signal through their purchasing power to companies which contribute to this environmental disaster year after year.” Indrani Thuraisingham, from Consumers International in Malaysia, told Al Jazeera.

Final Factors

Finally another factor is being considered as contributing to the particularly bad smog this year.  The El Nino’s that are upcoming are being cited as serious factors because they can cause dry weather in the South East Asia peninsula.  Since rain is probably the best resource for fighting the fires and the smog, when there is drought it severely hampers the countries ability to deal with the problem.