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Case Studies of Environmental Issues



1.         The forest fires and haze episode between January and May 1998 was considered as the worst haze episode experienced by Brunei Darussalam. The drought that inflicted Brunei Darussalam during

that time was also the worst drought that Brunei Darussalam had ever e

xperienced over the last 30 years.

2.         At its worse, the recorded 24 hours PM10 level exceeded the unhealthy level. At times visibility was also reduced to below 500 meters.

3.         The total land area burnt between February to May 1998 was estimated to be around 7,000 hectares.

4.         The forest fires and haze incident imposed a very high price tag to the economy and resulted in considerable health impact to the people of Brunei Darussalam. Daily socio-economic activities like the following were disrupted:

a)     Air and maritime transport operation were severely interrupted. Poor visibility had even at times led to closure of the airport.

b)     Working and school hours were adjusted and shortened.

c)      Smoke and dust emitting industrial activities were temporarily suspended when the haze reached very unhealthy level

d)     School holidays were brought forward

e)   Productivity declined due to an increase in the number of respiratory related cases inflicting the workforce and students.

5.         In addition the Government committed an enormous amount of financial and technical resources to combat forest fires and mitigate the impact of the haze.

6.         In light of the adverse socio-economic, health and environmental impacts of the forest fires and haze incident, the Government stepped up its efforts in implementing preventive and mitigation measures to curb the situation. This includes the adoption and implementation of ‘Zero Burning Policy’. 

7.         New legislation was introduced and enforcement of legislation that prohibits open burning was intensified. As a result there were twenty-one cases in which offenders were found guilty, and subsequently fined B$1,000.00 each, for violating Section 278 and 285 of the Penal Code. The said section contains provision in respect of offences relating to fire, which causes pollution to the atmosphere or endangers human life or property, were fined $1000 each.


8.         Zero-burning policy was instituted with the following objectives:

a)        Zero Smoke Emission – to prohibit and prevent activities that caused smoke emission to the atmosphere from taking place.

b)        Clear View – to prohibit and prevent activities that could affect/hinder visibility level.

9.         Several measures were undertaken for the implementation of ‘Zero Burning Policy’. They include the following:

a)        Introduction of Presumptive Laws;

b)        Banned on Open Burning;

c)         Early Detection and Warning;

d)        Quick and Effective Fire Fighting Response.


10.       On 30th March 1998 the Government introduced a new provision in the law to deal with open burning during dry seasons and prolonged drought (please refer to Annex 1).

11.       The new law is contained in the Emergency (Penal Code) Amendment Order 1998. A new section 277A provides for offences relating to open burning to be punishable with a fine of up to $100,000. Where such offence causes pollution to the atmosphere or endangers human life or property the punishment is of unlimited amount and or imprisonment for a term of up to 5 years.

12.       For the purpose of the new provisions of the Penal Code the Minister designated as responsible for environment will from time to time fix the “prescribed period” during which the new provision would be enforced. The Minister may, by order publish in the gazette, declare any period beginning with such date to be the commencement date and ending with such date to be the termination of the prescribed period during which open burning is prohibited throughout the country.

13.       An important feature of the new offence under section 277A is that the registered owner and the occupier can be made responsible for fires on their land unless they can proved otherwise.

14.       Also, under the Emergency (Public Order Act)(Amendment) Order 1998, a new Section 29A, provides for offences relating to any person who carries or has in possession or under his control any device known as ‘Molotov Cocktail’ or any other incendiary device used to start or keep any fire, the punishment is imprisonment for life if the place is in the vicinity of a petroleum pipeline, gas pipeline, water supply pipeline, electrical supply installation. Under the same section, in any other case, imprisonment for not less than one year and not more than 10 years and whipping with not less than 3 strokes will be applied. (please refer to refer Annex 2)


15.       With the onslaught of a critical haze situation blanketing the region, 4th April 1998 was declared as the commencement date of the prescribed period during which open burning was prohibited throughout the country (please refer to  Annex 3).

16.       A public awareness campaign was also initiated (through television and radio programmes / documentary, leaflets, newspapers and exhibitions). Community leaders at village level were also informed about the ill effects of open burning and about the imposed ban on open burning. This was made to secure public support and cooperation. A programme to promote the use of zero burning technology/techniques (recycling and reuse of biomass wastes through composting) is also being pursued.


17.       Monitoring activities through ground patrols and aerial surveillance were conducted to:

a)     Detect the occurrence of new fires

b)     Detect / apprehend violators of the ban on open burning

c)      Locate and assess the extent of existing fires

18.       Aerial surveillance is conducted by the Royal Brunei Air Force at least twice daily. When the haze situation is at its height, frequent and constant surveillance on open burning is undertaken. Ground patrols complement the aerial surveillance activities. Ground patrols are conducted by the fire services, police and forest rangers.

19.       Public cooperation and support in reporting any violators of the ban on open burning is also very important. An effective communication network is necessary to ensure that information on open burning and forest fire incidences can be channeled and relayed quickly and effectively to the relevant agency for action. For this purpose a Haze Information Center was established to perform amongst others the following tasks:

a)     Provides hourly visibility and PSI readings;

b)     Receive complaints on open burning;

c)      Press and media release;

d)     Feedback from Public;

e)     Hourly information and advice to public;

f)        Promote awareness through electronic and print media;

g)     Relay report on open burning to relevant enforcement agencies;

h)      Compile report from relevant agency.


Quick and Effective Fire Fighting Response:

20.       In order to achieve ‘Zero Smoke Emission’ objective, fires and smouldering fires have to be suppressed early before they become uncontrollable. An integrated fire fighting operation system consisting of aerial and ground fire fighting is necessary for this purpose.

21.       Ground Fire Fighting Operation Centers codes named X-rays were established in nine locations throughout the country. An on-scene commander mans each X-ray together with a support team with the necessary resources and other logistical support. The centers operate on a 24-hour basis. The centers are responsible for executing monitoring, preventive and fire suppression activities within the area of their jurisdiction. This operation was led by the Fire Services Department with the assistance from the Royal Brunei Armed Forces, Royal Brunei Police Force, Public Works Department, Forestry Department, Electrical Department and many others including the private sectors and volunteers.

22.       Fires in remote locations are mainly suppressed by using aerial fire fighting means. Aerial fire fighting operations are handled and coordinated by The Royal Brunei Air Force.

23.       To ensure a coordinated fire fighting operation, an effective air to ground and ground to ground communication network is essential. A ground fire fighting command center and an aerial fire fighting command center were set up for coordination and communication purposes.


24.       From the experience Brunei Darussalam gained in implementing and realising zero burning policy, the following factors are considered fundamental in achieving success:

a)     Strict enforcement of zero burning regulations

b)     Constant surveillance on open burning

c)      Effective public awareness campaign

d)     Effective communication and information networks

e)     Coordinated and integrated fire fighting teams

f)        Adequate fire fighting resources