Malaysia shelves air pollution plan over data issues

Malaysia has dropped a plan to draft a law aimed at stopping cross-border air pollution, its environment ministry has said.

The move will come as blow to local environmental groups, given that Singapore passed a similar law in 2014.

The Malaysian government added that the decision was made over difficulties in obtaining information for prosecutions.

Almost every dry season, smoke from fires to clear land for palm oil and pulp and paper plantations in Indonesia blankets much of the region, leading to concern for public health as well as disruption to travel and tourism businesses.

Environment groups say countries should adopt laws to go after the plantation companies in foreign countries suspected of being responsible for the pollution.

Singapore’s law aims to hold those who cause haze both criminally and civilly liable, but Malaysia’s environment ministry said in a written reply to parliament it would not go ahead with a law, citing difficulty in enforcing it.

“To enable the enforcement of a transboundary haze pollution bill, clear evidence that transboundary haze originates from neighbouring countries must be supported by sufficient data such as location maps, coordinates, landowner information and companies operating in the location of fires,” the ministry said.

Such information was difficult to obtain as it involves matters of confidentiality, security and national sovereignty, the ministry said.