Prosecute those who ignore the 'no-burning' ban, says WWFPetaling Jaya, Malaysia - WWF Malaysia today called on the authorities to be very firm in prosecuting companies or individuals who violate the "No-burning" ban imposed by the Government on July 9 2001 to protect the country against forest fires.
WWF Malaysia's Executive Director Dato' Dr Mikaail Kavanagh Abdullah said the Government should leave no stone unturned in ensuring that everyone adhered to the ban.
Science, Technology and Environment Minister Datuk Law Hieng Ding had said that those caught violating the ban could be fined up to RM500,000 or jailed for five years or both.
Kavanagh said the Government's stern stand and commitment in stemming the forest fires and haze problem before it gets out of hand was in the right direction.
"Daily updates on the standard of air quality (Air Pollutant Index) should be provided to the public for health reasons, but that won't solve the problem.
"We can all help. For starters, don't burn in the open and do call the Department of Environment if you spot somebody doing it. Remember, when your neighbor burns, it may be you who chokes," he said.
In 1997, more tropical forest burned around the world than at any other time in recorded history.
At least 5 million hectares of forests and other land burned in Indonesia and Brazil, along with vast areas of Papua New Guinea, Colombia, Peru, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Congo and other parts of Africa.
Elsewhere in the world, large scale fires burned in several Mediterranean countries, Australia, Russia and China. The wide spread of these fires is a clear indication that forest fire management is in a state of crisis around the world".
The fires did not start by accident. Most were set deliberately, and often illegally, to clear land for planting, to cover up illegal logging and sometimes to open up land for development.
The forest fires turn previously moist forests into drier habitats, that burn more easily as global warming begins to bite. Carbon dioxide and other gases released from fires add to the greenhouse effect.
Fires in parts of South East Asia have in the past set peat deposits on fire which remain burning deep underground for months or even years. Such fires can flare up again in the next dry season, which can only worsen the high human and ecological cost of this season's fires.
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