HOW TO CATCH THE WIND
OPEN, PEAT & BUSH FIRE
With the Sun crossing the Equator, March & April is traditionally very hot. Natural & man-made bush FIRES in Malaysia and Indonesia are inevitable during this period.
The raging fires are an environment disaster and the ensuing HAZE is socio-economic problem. Asthma sufferers, children and the elderly are particularly at risk. In March 2014, the haze reached far beyond the hazardous levels nationwide. Do you remember how your life was persistently disrupted last year
by the toxic haze? I remember turning-up for a full marathon event in Shah Alam last March with wifey, and the visibility was down to 50 metres and the whole place was shrouded in a fog-like cloud. Some participants were smart enough to forgo the run completely. On hindsight, I was foolish to run half the distance despite the obvious health risks. During the haze-covered run, the airborne pollutants caused a burning sensation in our throats. The unpleasant situation had taught me a good lesson, and since that day, I never underestimate the hazards of the haze. From experience, I learnt to not depend entirely on the official haze readings to assess the danger level because often, the readings recorded seemed lower than what my eyes and nose were telling me. To be fair, free-flowing air pollutants are difficult to track & it is not feasible to have haze readings everywhere. Since we are all ultimately responsible for our own health, I find it is sensible to err on the side of caution when deciding whether to engage in specific outdoor activities during the dreaded haze season. Anyway, I will share below some more suggestions on how to better prepare ourselves for the seasonal haze onslaught.
Arguably, the economic cost of flood devastation is easier to calculate than the cost incurred from a bad haze spell because flood damages are more visible and tangible. In contrast, the ill-affects of severe haze are mainly intangible and difficult to estimate. How do we quantify the exact effects of deteriorating air quality on our health in the short and long-run? My point is that when the public can actually see media reports of the floods destroying towns and homes, people are emotionally moved to take immediate remedial action and offer financial assistance. However, when the haze envelopes the whole country, there is not much that can be done to prevent and deal with the open-burning or bush fires within Malaysia and in neighbouring countries. The authorities, without adequate resources and proper diplomatic support, are pretty helpless to manage a haze catastrophe. The threat of fines against plantation companies are not deterring open-burning despite the far-reaching damage to the environment, society and our economy, year-in and year-out. Call me a cynic but because, unlike flood disasters, reports of acute haze do not impact the lives of citizens dramatically enough to push politicians to take drastic action. Meantime, this lack of a broad preventive measure will sadly result in a continuous accumulated
rise in the hidden cost of poor air quality. I hope my above synopsis of the lack of action is wrong for all our sakes.
So, when a bad haze spell arrives, are you going to panic and let the situation disrupt your life or will you be prepared for it? Here are a few pointers which I have compiled to help me cope with the next blast of toxic air, and maybe, it could help you too.
When Bad Air Comes;
1) Children, the elderly & asthmatics should limit the time spent outdoors.
2) Plan more indoor activities and engage less in outdoor activities.
3) Drink 10 or more glasses of water daily.
4) For sportsmen, avoid training for long periods outdoors. Train in gyms more.
5) Wear medically-approved face masks when going outdoors. Alternately, you can wear a fashionable and reusable Naroo face mask for protection against dust (effective up to 1 micron of dust) and UV rays.
6) If itchiness of eyes, sore throat and coughing persist, please consult your local doctor for advice.
7) Report to the authorities if you see anyone engaged in open-burning.
Let us do what we can to protect and preserve our environment by Recycle, Reuse & Reduce.