Authorities must monitor, act to end open burning

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dear Editor,

I AM writing in response to your article "Thin haze in Brunei due to open burning" published on July 12, 2011. I want to ask why the practice of open burning is still prevalent despite the government's "zero burning policy" and hefty fines of up to $100,000.

It also baffles me that contact details such as an email address or a hotline to lodge complaints of open burning activities are non-existent.

Personally, I have several neighbours who would conduct open burning on a regular basis, up to five times a week! What's worse is that they are not only burning regular household waste, they also include materials such as rubber tyres and plastics which produce toxic chemicals when burnt.

This poses a health risk to those living nearby, especially to children and people with breathing difficulties. In addition, burning causes air pollution, and contributes to global warming, among other countless adverse impacts.

At times, the smoke from the burning can be so thick that, when spotted from afar, one may mistake it for a house fire. An expat family who used to live nearby expressed their concern over the practice and chose to leave the neighbourhood to move to an area with "cleaner air".

There is a perception among some people that it is okay to burn because the pollution level in Brunei is low compared to other countries. This is very misleading.

A low level of pollution does not mean we should practise or tolerate open burning. Such a perception is especially worrying as it shows that the level of environmental awareness among the people is still very low.

At a time when countries around the world are fighting to reduce air pollution and carbon emissions, we should feel lucky that we have relatively clean air in Brunei. We should not be adding to the problem by burning and releasing pollutants into the air.

Open burning has been an ongoing issue over the years and is a huge annoyance. It is a threat to human health and the environment, and also leaves a bad impression on those who visit our country.

The legislation is there, but there's not enough enforcement, monitoring or education to raise awareness as to the harmful impacts of open burning. I hope the authorities will look seriously into this matter, and most importantly - take action! A need for clean air