Hazy Direction

At 7am on Sunday, 23rd June 2013, the Air Pollution Index (or Pollution Standards Index) in the coastal town of Muar, Johor, hit 716. For those without idea of what that means, let me provide you with some notes:

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It clearly states that a state of emergency will be declared the moment the API exceeds 500 points. Guess when did the Minister finally declared emergency in Muar?

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That was 3 hours and 29 minutes later.

Painfully slow.

Now that emergency has been declared, what are the residents of Muar supposed to do? I quickly went into the Department of Environment’s website and found nothing on what are people supposed to do once emergency has been declared.

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I went into the Ministry of Health’s website, there was just an info page on how to deal with the haze conditions, but of course I don’t expect them to come up with a plan because the emergency was declared by the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment.

I guess the government has yet to learn the lessons of Ops Daulat etc. Obviously the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has failed in both Risk Management and Crisis Management. In the Risk Management aspect, there should have been a Haze Risk Management Committee set-up and a Risk Assessment done by this committee that involves the Department of Environment, the Meteorological Department, Remote Sensing to determine the hotspots, wind directions, weather and wind patterns on a strategic (long-term) level.

On the Crisis Management path there should have been two phases set: Crisis Precaution and Crisis Handling. In the first phase, when you know things are imminent, you should go into avoidance or prevention: actively engage the Indonesian counterparts on how to discourage slash-and-burn techniques employed by plantations in Sumatra. You already know this will happen on an annual basis, yet you did nothing.

The haze hit the south first, with Singapore being blanketed in a PSI close to 500. Towns like Pasir Gudang and Kota Tinggi also got hit. Yet there was no dissemination of information done by the DOE on steps to be taken by residents. There was no early diagnosis, early recognition of the potential severity of the situation, and there was no early warning given.

If I were the Minister, I would have had a draft of declaration of emergency ready inside my Ministry’s Crisis Management Manual (which I doubt exists) and with the API steadily increasing beyond 400 in Muar yesterday, I would have one ready for issue. Yet, there was none. That is why it took the Minister 3 hours and 29 minutes after the index had screamed 746 to react and declare emergency. And as at time of posting this, not a single information has been issued by he Ministry on steps to be taken by residents and government agencies in a pollution emergency. Funny enough, there wasn’t even a live press conference on news at noon for the Ministry to convey these steps to the public and to the relevant government agencies.

Why? Why is this still happening in the wake of Ops Daulat? Singapore went proactive once PSI hit 400. We took 3 hours and 29 minutes after it hit 746 in Muar. That is worse than being bloody reactive!

The government had better get off its fat butt and treble its efforts in the stage of crisis handling. I expected better from this government after Ops Daulat. I guess I had put my hopes 1mm too high!

7 Replies to “Hazy Direction”

  1. Politicians (minister) come and go. The government servants stays, therefore the D.G. must advise the minister what to do. DS Najib gave them rewards without considering their KPI achievements. Reward should come with punishment.

  2. Minister must provide the direction… The government servants are not proactive enough to do this themselves I believe. And, I do not know whether they are being KPI for proactive achievements…

  3. A question if I may : Why must we wait for any minister to declare anything? Issues of public health and safety should rest with Ministry of Health; D-G can play this by the book, no?

    Of course, one assumes there is a playbook available.

    1. As in the case of Ops Daulat, an OCPD has all the powers according to the law to declare his district under emergency and impose curfew etc., but no, this did not happen. Even the CPO had to wait for the IGP who had to wait for Menteri Amaran to declare. And what happened instead? He declared the insurgents old men with outdated and homemade weapons.

      In Malaysia, Ministers would want to make the call because it gives the the political mileage.

  4. 1. There is coordination between everyone involved. (between every level of ministries) macam itk cakap ngan ayam… everyone on its own
    2. Lack of coordination within the cabinet is exposed.(within the ministry; education, plantation, home minister, etc) Every minister talking rubbish. No guts or slow to take action.. Best example Education Ministry, the minister say something else, the DG say something else, The confused party – rakyat. Takke bangang namanya
    3. People’s health is primary important. School should be declared close till further notice. Review the API from time to time.
    4. Information Minister and its staff is doing nothing to disseminate critical information which is vital and important for the rakyat well being.
    (would suggest information ministry to be closed down for good.. Can anyone tell me what have they done for the last decade?)
    5. Ministry of Health is letting its DG doing the PR which is good. This should be done more throughout the crisis
    6. The electronic media especially TV and internet should provide accurate and reliable information from time to time. Please don’t wait till news slot. You need to do better than this… Do crossover whenever necessary…takkan itu pun nak ajar.

    I could go on and on… but my advice to the Government – please care and put your priority where it should be…. the rakyat. Your indecisiveness and incompetency in tackling the issue is causing problem to the rakyat. Please buck up.

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