YET again, we have to endure haze. What’s irritating is that it always happens in August.
Haze has been a perennial problem not only in Malaysia, but also in other Southeast Asian countries.
It is the duty of every nation to take responsibility for causing transboundary pollution.
There is an international principle called sic utere tuo alienum non laedas (one must use his own property in such a way that he does not damage that of another). Often used in international environmental laws, the principle reaffirms the sovereign right of states to conduct activities within their territories, but the states have no right to conduct activities in such a manner that will cause injury to other states.
In 2014, Singapore took legal action under its Transboundary Haze Pollution Act 2014 that led to massive fines against several Indonesian companies blamed for plantation fires.
Many considered the act, which came into effect on Sept 25, 2014, as a dramatic piece of legislation that created “extra territorial liability” for entities setting fires abroad that caused transboundary smoke.
This act gives Singaporean authorities the power to go after companies that cause haze, even though they have no operations in the city-state.
Section 5 of the act states that Singapore can fine S$100,000 for each day that a local or foreign company contributes to unhealthy levels of haze pollution in Singapore, subject to a maximum fine of S$2 million.
There has been much discussion with the neighbouring country on the haze issue, but it persists every year.
Perhaps Malaysia can emulate Singapore’s move to pass a legislation to cover not only haze, but also other types of transboundary pollution.
DR MUZAFFAR SYAH MALLOW
Syariah and Law Faculty, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia, Nilai, Negri Sembilan