Haze from Indonesian fires may have killed more than 100,000 people – study

A smog outbreak in Southeast Asia last year may have caused over 100,000 premature deaths, according to a new study released Monday that triggered calls for action to tackle the “killer haze”.

Researchers from Harvard and Columbia universities in the US estimated there were more than 90,000 early deaths in Indonesia in areas closest to haze-belching fires, and several thousand more in neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia.

The new estimate, reached using a complex analytical model, is far higher than the previous official death toll given by authorities of just 19 deaths in Indonesia.

Groups calling for special environmental impact assessment for Malaysia's Tanjung Aru beach

Concerned groups are calling for a special environmental impact assessment for the proposed massive redevelopment of the scenic Tanjung Aru beach area here.

Among them is the Sabah Environmental Protection Association (SEPA) that is also urging the government to speed up the setting up of a project office to enable the public to obtain answers about redevelopment scheme.

SEPA president Lanash Thanda said there had been public apprehension about the project since its disclosure on Sept 16.

Malaysian PM calls for new respect for environment

Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak yesterday urged world leaders to inculcate a new respect for the environment, saying the people and the future generations depend on it.

The prime minister said this would require a change, not just in organisational culture but also mindset.

"Our local Cengal tree, like California's Redwoods, may take centuries to reach its humongous size. But it can be felled in less than a few hours by an unscrupulous timber contractor with a chainsaw.

First court case over haze may start next month

THE first case of a company charged with illegal burning may land in a Riau district court next month, said a senior Indonesian official, even as the haze thickened and meteorologists warned of more hot spots through October.

"Most of the cases have moved to the investigations stage and we expect the first case ready to be in court by end of September," Mr Mas Achmad Santosa, deputy of a presidential task force, told The Straits Times on the sidelines of a United Nations-led workshop on Forestry Law.

Malaysia: Aerial patrols for the jungles

Environmental protection efforts will be expanded to the skies following the decision to launch the Aerial Jungle Monitoring Programme early next year, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry said.

The Cabinet had agreed during its meeting last week to provide RM2mil to fund the programme, which is aimed at improving enforcement of environmental laws and regulations, said Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas.

The aerial patrols would keep tabs on development projects that are carried out in the jungle.

Malaysia: Environment NGO takes Tawau council to court

The Sabah Environmental Protection Association (Sepa) is seeking to legally stop the constuction and operation of the Kubota power plant in Tawau which it claims is a health hazard.

Sepa president Wong Tack, who filed the application at the High Court here for a judicial review, named the Tawau Municipal Council president, federal Environment Department director, Land and Survey Department director and Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) as its first, second, third and fourth respondents respectively.

Malaysia: Toll operators urged to clear their waste

The Malaysian Highway Authority is urging toll concessionaires to step up their environmental conservation efforts and obtain MS ISO 14000 certification to prove their commitment.

Its director-general Datuk Ismail Md Salleh said while operators currently have to obtain an Enviromental Impact Assessement (EIA) report before building new expressways, it still left the question of the impact of other elements of highways would have in the long run.

Malaysia: RM50,000 fine if starting without EIA approval

The maximum compound for those flouting the Environment Protection Environment Enactment 2002 has been increased.

The State Assembly passed the Environment Protection (Amendment) Enactment 2012 on Wednesday that, among others, upped compounds by up to 50 per cent from the present maximum compounds for offences stated in the enactment.

Tabling the Bill, State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said the compound for example those found starting works without the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report had been raised to RM50,000 from RM20,000 presently.

Malaysia: Ministry uncomfortable about illegal land clearing

The recent land clearing activities at Mount Santubong for the proposed cable car project might negatively impact the surrounding environment and hence the tourism sector.

Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk James Dawos Mamit said yesterday his ministry was “uncomfortable” about the illegal land clearing as the environmental impact assessment (EIA) and project feasibility were not yet concluded when clearing work started.

Malaysia: Penan resettlement sites: ‘Why notify only now’?

Save Rivers Network (SAVE Rivers) has ridiculed the first notification of the Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) Report for the proposed resettlement sites and service centre for the Penans affected by the Murum dam project.

The notification was released on Oct 11 by the State Planning Unit (SPU) and involved the Metalun and Tegulang Resettlement sites as well as the Murum service centre.