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Health impact assessment (HIA) is the process of evaluating the possible impact of a biological, chemical, physical or social factor on specific human population system under a fixed environment and for certain duration. (HIA) is an important element of the environmental impact assessment process, which has been considered compulsory for all approved activities under the Environmental Impact Assessment Order, 1987, which comes under the umbrella of the Environmental Quality Act, 1974. Although all involved HIA consultants are registered under the EIA Consultant Registration Scheme, their HIA conduct in Malaysia is not consistent with the requirement. Therefore, introduction of a guidance document is a needed to make all HIA practice is more consistent with the enforcement. The aim of the Guidance Document on HIA is to provide information to all stakeholders such as consultants, industries, government agencies and the public on the assessment of health impacts from a project development. Prof. Dr. Jamal Hisham Hashim, DOE,( 2009)
Health Impact Assessment also a planning tool and a process that systematically recognizes and inspects both the potential positive and negative health impacts of an activity or a project development. In this planning structure, the outcome of an assessment provides the perfect way to implement the plan to maximize positive health controls and minimize negative health impacts to the environment. Open burning is a major source of air pollution in the urban area in Malaysia. Burning rubbish openly, burning the forest for replantation or development, burning rice straw on paddy fields which releases harmful chemicals and gases should be totally avoided altogether to avoid the air pollution in Malaysia. Many citizens of Malaysia are still unaware of the impact of their action which their action lead environmental and health effect in Malaysia. In this assignment, the reader should be able to understand the assessment process of Health and Impact Assessment and the effects of air pollution from open burning in the urban area of Malaysia and the strategies that can be applied to reduce or eliminate them. Prof. Dr. Jamal Hisham Hashim, DOE, 2009)
2.0 Health Impact Assessment (HIA) Process
According to Department of Environment (DOE)Malaysia, environmental impact assessment (EIA) is a study to explore, predict, evaluate and convey the consequences of the open burning to the environment and the mitigating measures prior to a project approval and implementation (DOE, 2009). Minister of Natural Resources and Environment was empowers under section 34A of the Environmental Quality Act, 1974 to perform prescribe any activity which may have substantial environmental impact in Malaysia.
2.1 The purpose of Health Impact Assessment (HIA) Process
The purpose of HIA process is to evaluate the potential development need to conduct an HIA for the project. HIA may not require for all development projects in Malaysia. As detailed in EIA, HIA is not required unless it can be objectively debated that an HIA is not give significant effect to the particular project. Referring to the previous project history and the known outcome of the prescribed activities of the projects record will describe the requirement of HIA for a particular project. However, the project not listed in HIA database listing are must be screened for the need to undergo an HIA. A screening checklist is has been developed to assist the Project Initiators and the Department of Environment in screening potential projects or prescribed activities that would require an HIA.
2.2 The scope of Health Impact Assessment (HIA) Process
Health impact assessment (HIA) is becoming an important tool for assessing the health impacts of policies, programmes and projects. There are several guidelines on HIA, both general and specific procedure that has been published to describe the requirements. The aim of this “Guidance Document” is to specifically address requirement of the assessment. The application of HIA has been mainly in the framework of an EIA study in Malaysia. However, due to lack of official guideline on its implementation, many methodologies and formats have been engaged by HIA consultants resulting in inconsistency in the HIA. Therefore, the scope of HIA is to prevent the health impacts that may arise from a project development. HIA not only developed to help avoiding unnecessary difficulties of negative health impacts but also preventing a health effect in which certainly less cost effective than treating them.
2.3 The assessment of Health Impact Assessment (HIA) Process
Risk reduction is a process of risk management and it required to be assessed before an initiative to minimize the risk can be taken. The goal of health risk assessment process is to identify, define the risk and subsequently is to assess the risk exposure to the surrounding. The risk can be adequately assessed and categorised from the information obtained from hazard and exposure and Health Impact Assessment and it can also be defined as an organisational approach. Health risk assessment is applied for the assessment of health hazards from the environment. There are two methods to assess the health risk exposure, namely the quantitative and qualitative health risk assessment.
A numerical measure of the risk or safety of a chemical exposure is derived from the quantitative risk assessment. The generated numerical measure value of the risk is than compared with the guideline or a defined acceptable risk level. There are two categories of risks being assessed when performing a quantitative risk assessment, namely non-carcinogenic and carcinogenic health risk and it is the preferred assessment for HIA in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) whenever this is applicable. DOE (2009)
A qualitative risk assessment simply characterises or compares the hazard of a chemical relation to each other’s or describes the hazard in only qualitative terms, such as mutagen or carcinogen, which predicts certain risk or safety procedures measures may not require a numerical assessment or quantitative risk assessment. Some health risk related with contagious diseases may not fit well to quantitative risk assessment due to the nature of the risk. Therefore, a qualitative risk assessment may only be the assessment method whenever it is possible to execute based on the requirement. As quoted in National Academy of Sciences (1996), “quantitative risk assessment can be defined as the classification of the potential adverse health effects of human exposures to environmental hazards”. The risk assessment contains four steps, which consist of hazard identification, dose-response assessment, exposure assessment and risk classification. The use of quantitative health risk assessment is mostly limited to the assessment of chemical hazards. Biological and physical hazards do not fit well to quantitative assessment where in such cases, qualitative assessment should be applied for the purpose. DOE, (2009)
3.0 Open burning activity
According to Environmental Quality Act 1974 (Act 127) any burning conducted in such a manner that combustion air is not efficiently controlled and that combustion products are not vented through a stack or chimney, including but not limited to burning conducted in open outdoor fires, common burn barrels and backyard incinerators is define as open burning. The burning is typically conducted using burn barrels, separated pits, backyard burners, and pilling up of refuse, trash, yard trimmings or leaves also considered into this category. Datuk Law Hieng Ding, DOE (2000)
3.1 Causes of open burning
i) Jungle fire
Jungle fire fires and the resultant smoke-haze are somewhat new experiences to Malaysia. The problems are seemed to be intensely increasing and repeated occasionally. Under normal circumstances, the unexplored jungles of Malaysia will not catch fire easily and even if it catches fire, the fire will not be spreading extensively due to the humidity that exceeds 75% and the rate of litter decomposition on the forest ground is reasonably fast. There is very little chance of the forest to catch fire unless these conditions are changed due climate changes. However, when water in these areas is drained during development projects, the ground becomes completely dry and is has high possibility to catch fire. Under these conditions the fire spreads underground and can keep burning for a long time. Wan Mohd Shukri Wan Ahmad ( 2001)
ii) Human causes
The other sources that can contribute to one of the causes of the fire are mostly by the actions of humans. Some of the major reasons are caused by individuals who want to eliminate things like garbage from their backyard. There are some farmers who burn rice straws to clean their fields before replantation and preparation of agricultural plantations. These are activities that are very commonly can be seen in Malaysia. DES,(2013)
3.2 The effect of open burning
The fire gives extensive damage to plants, animals, environment and the health of people surrounding the affected areas. The haze and air pollution are at a dangerous level in most of these areas and at times it reaches to intolerable and hazardous levels. Although there’s an increase in respiratory related sicknesses in the neighbourhood caused by the forest fire, the long term effects of open burning will affect mainly the health of people and is difficult to solve and is now an issue of concern in Malaysia. Besides the effect as mentioned above, open burning also disrupts the Malaysian economy and other measurable effects including reasons as quoted below.
i) Production losses.
In year 1997, Malaysia reached a new urgency causing by the haze when the Air Pollution Index (API) readings reached 500μg/m3. Sarawak declared 10 days emergency state due prolongation of the haze which resulted in various production losses of economic activities. Firstly, the production losses inclusive of a reduction in growth of crops subsequent caused by reduction of sunlight. Secondly, the fishing activities reduced due to poor visibility for the fishing boats. These effects indirectly have reduced the expected profit per day of the business. Finally, the industrial and commercial activity delays in logistics and an increase the effort in cleaning and maintenance of equipment due to dust and corrosion occurrence. During this production downtime, the profits fall far away from the estimated value. Wan Mohd Shukri Wan Ahmad ( 2001)
ii) Tourism losses
Tourism industry will tremendously hit by a drastic impact due to reduction of tourist arrivals from various countries to Malaysia caused by the haze. The government is forced to declare a state of emergency in certain areas where the air pollution indices reached dangerous levels which may lead to serious health concerns. This action is taken in order to regulate the effect of economic crisis which in itself is expected to affect the incoming of tourists into this land. Wan Mohd Shukri Wan Ahmad ( 2001)
iii) Health effect
Open trash burning can release hexchlorobenzene (HCB) to the environment. This chemical contains high toxin that miscible slowly in the air. Theoretically, it can travel long distances in the air. It bio- accumulates in marine lives, birds and animals that feed on fish and sea plants. HCB is a probable human carcinogen, and based on studies, long-term and low-level exposures to HCB can damage growth of a developing baby or animal, kidney and liver damage and cause exhaustion and skin disease. Environmental service, (2013)
iv) Global worming
Open burning can also be the cause for global warming on earth. Numerous open burning is done by individuals who are not responsible. These activities can result in the release of carbon dioxide gas into the atmosphere and in will trap heat that originates from the earth.
3.3 Legal requirement for open burning.
Government has launched an initiative to prevent and control the deterioration of air quality when the Department of Environment enforced the Environmental Quality Act (EQA 1974) Section 29A that discusses the prevention of open burning and Section 22 of the EQA 1974, section 29AA which prohibits individuals, companies or the premise of the release of pollutants air into atmosphere above the limit prescribed under the Environmental Quality Regulations EQA 1974. Datuk Law Hieng Ding, DOE (2000)
a) Three main rules are enforced under Section 22 is as follows;
i. Regulations Environmental Quality (Clean Air)
ii. Regulations Environmental Quality (Control of Emission from Diesel engines)
iii. Regulations Environmental Quality (Control of Emission from Petrol engines)
b) Exclusion from open burning “section, 29AA”
The minister may declare the stop order relates to any fire, combustion or smouldering for the purpose of any activity specified in that order is not open burning as defined in and for the purpose of section 29A whenever conditions as may be specified in section 22A which exceed the specified in the order. DOE, (2014)
c) Offenses and penalties
To prevent the open burning in Malaysia, the Department of Environment will take firm action against those who are involved in open burning as specified as an offense including compound of RM 2000 for each offense and court action in which the convicted will be penalised of the offense under Section 22 (3) Act and can be fined up to One Hundred Thousand Dollars (RM100,000) or imprisonment up to 5 years and under Section 29A of the EQA 1974 may which bring to a fine of up to Five Hundred Thousand Dollars (RM 500,000) or 5 years imprisonment if the charges are proven in the court. DOE,(2014)
d) Strategies to reduce open burning
There are several ways to tackle the air pollution caused by open burning.
i) The first step is that we need to change the mind set and attitude of our own. Most air pollution is due to the attitudes of people who are concerned with their own interests. Factory owners release toxic gases into the air because they want to make more profit and do not want to waste the money to filter gases. Therefore, we need to change the mind set and attitude of our own knowing air pollution will bring a lot of negative effects of environmental damage.
ii) The second step is that the government should hold campaigns on air pollution awareness to the public. The aim is educate society about the importance of maintaining and protecting the environment. In addition, the public will be exposed to the effects, causes and measures to cope with the environment. This campaign should be held throughout so that the community will not forget the effort to protect the environment. This campaign can be provided at the school, council housing or public library and posters can also be placed in places that can be seen by the public.
iii) The third step is to enforce laws and regulations. Intention to enforce the laws and regulations are parties to air pollution will be share out with in terms of the law. Factories, agricultural field that release fumes that pollute the air will be charged will be summoned. If they continue to perform these activities, the business license should be revoked. The objective is to minimize air pollution levels are lower.
iv) Responsibility of community.
Last but not least to the actions taken by the government and the authorities, the public must be responsible and equally protect the environment to ensure the earth is sustainable. Among the actions that can be made â€‹â€‹is that to use public transport instead of private vehicles or car. On the other hand, the owner of the vehicle must ensure their vehicles do not release black smoke by taking steps to perform regular inspection and maintenance especially for the engine carburettor and fuel pump to be in good condition. The farmers are also should responsible take initiative to recycle the residual wood to transform into fertilizer or other mean of disposing waste creatively. The public can also make a complaint to the Royal Malaysian Police, Fire and Rescue Department and Local Authorities What if there is combustion of solid waste and reports can also be made to the DOE of any open burning carried out by industry and plantations.
Health impact assessment (HIA) is the process of evaluating the possible impact of a biological, chemical, physical or social factor on specific human population system under a fixed environment and for certain duration. The activities approved under the Environmental Impact Assessment Order 1987, which comes under the umbrella of the Environmental Quality Act, 1974. Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is a study is conducted to explore, predict, evaluate and convey the outcome of the consequences of the environment pollution and the mitigating measures prior to project approval and implementation of EQA 1974 and the purpose of HIA process is to evaluate the potential development need to conduct an HIA for the project. There are two methods to assess the health risk exposure, namely the quantitative and qualitative health risk assessment. A numerical measure of the risk or safety of a chemical exposure is derived from the quantitative risk assessment whereby the qualitative risk assessment may only be the assessment the nature of the risk.
Open burning becomes the contribution factor for air pollution in this country. Several cause which being identified such as Forest fire and Human causes and the effects which contributing to production losses, tourism losses, health effect and global warming. Rules and regulation are established by the government to prevent and control the deterioration of air quality under EQA 1974 and the action taken who found to be breaking the law. Strategies taken inclusive of changing people mind set and attitude, campaigns for public awareness, enforcing laws and regulations and encouraging using public transport which may reduce the environmental impact to air pollution. In conclusion, the people and the government must work together to solve the problem of air pollution. Although it cannot be eliminated overnight, but with the cooperation of various parties air pollution problems can be solved. We must think of the generations that will require environmental gives a beautiful and comfortable for them to live in this world and just treat the environment that has been created by God.
Datuk Law Hieng Ding/DOE. (2000). Environmental Quality Act 1974 [ACT 127]. Retrieved Oct 2,2014, from http://cp.doe.gov.my/pdf/Environmental%20 Quality %20(Prescribed%20Activities)%20(Open%20Burning).pdf
Department of Environmental Services , New Hamspire. (2013). Open Burning of Residential Trash. Retrieved Oct 2,2014, from http://des.nh.gov/organization/ commissioner/pip/factsheets/ard/documents/ard-33.pdf
Department for Environment. (2014). Enforcement on Air Pollution . Retrieved Oct 3,2014, from http://www.doe.gov.my/portalv1/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Kenyataan-Akhbar-Mengenai-Penguatkuasaan-Pencemaran-Udara-24-Julai-2014.pdf
Prof. Dr. Jamal Hisham Hashim/DOE. (2009). Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Retrieved Oct 2,2014, from http://www.doe.gov.my/eia/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/HIA-Guidance-Document.pdf
Wan Mohd Shukri Wan Ahmad/ Natural Forest Division. (2001). Forest Fire Situation in Malaysia. Retrieved Oct 2,2014, from http://www.fire.uni-freiburg.de/ iffn/country/ my/ my_2.htm
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