Do we have enough clean air to breath?
Prof. Dr., Muhamad Awang (2000) Do we have enough clean air to breath?
The Clean Air Regulations of 1985 and related amendments provided the legislative mandate and defined the processes for the establishment of the Recommended National Air Quality Guidelines 1989. The purpose of the guidelines is for the protection of human health and public welfare (primary), and ecosystems (secondary) against any known or anticipated adverse effects from sulphur dioxide (S02), nitrogen oxide (N02), particulate matter (PMIO), ozone (0)) and carbon monoxide (CO). In recognition of the need to periodically review the effectiveness of the guidelines, the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment developed a plan and mechanisms through its research and development programmes at 5-year intervals through the intensification of research in priority areas (IRP A). The first part of this lecture reviews some scientific work carried out through the IRPA programme by researchers between 1979 and 1999 specifically in the areas of changes in atmospheric chemistry due to anthropogenic activities and their impacts on the environment. Evidently, there were limitations with serious implications about our air quality. A number of very important conclusions derived from the air quality monitoring data were subjected to further elucidation. Further assessments are needed, not only on the physico-chemical properties of atmospheric pollutants, but also on the impacts of air quality on human health, animal and aquatic life, agricultural crops and forest species, and their economic implications. Subsequently, the lecture attempts to answer the question of the adequacy of our research on air pollution. Other answers related to the question of effectiveness of established guidelines for the purpose of planning and management are also addressed. The lecture also suggests that future research programmes (basic, applied and policy) should be focussed on the long-term impacts of episodic transboundary haze on human health and overall ecosystems based on local and regional meteorological patterns. The research should emphasize on the development of tools for assessing technology options in line with regulatory and voluntary environmental management requirements that promote the sustainability of locally related industries. Policy research on sustainable land-use (especially agricultural) practices in the region should also be emphasized. Thus, future research programmes should be multidisciplinary in nature. Each major research programme should consists of a 'coordinator' component that would integrate and synthesize all information and data generated from all individual studies, to form a coherent understanding of the links among the sources, impacts and management strategies.
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