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POLLUTION IN BRUNEI DARUSSALAM                  

(Excerpt of paper authored by Pg. Shamhary Pg. Dato Paduka Hj. Mustapha and presented at ASEAN Meeting on Management of Transboundary Pollution/Haze in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 14-17 June, 1995)


 

INTRODUCTION

1.

Although to date Brunei Darussalam has no major environmental pollution problems, it is realised that proper management of the quality of the environment is essential in view of population growth, urbanization and economic development.

 

2.

Air pollution control is now a growing concern in Brunei Darussalam. It is realised that there is a lack of information due to the lack of studies in the area. However, in general the air quality appears to be comparatively clean. This nonetheless does not mean that Brunei Darussalam is free from air poll

ution. Some studies have indicated a very high TSP level. Wind blown dusts are the most likeley sources.

3.

Brunei Darussalam have also experienced episodes of haze. Haze frequently occur in Brunei Darussalam, especially between May and October when the southwesterly monsoon winds prevail. This period is the less wettest period of the year and the atmosphere is also relatively stable. The occurrences of haze in the country range from slight transient hazy condition to severe haze episodes.

4.

For the latter, six haze episodes have been observed since early 1980's; August 1980, August to September 1982, September 1983, September 1987, August to September 1991 and most recently during August to September 1994 which observed one of the worst haze episode.

SOURCES OF AIR POLLUTION

5.

There are several sources of air pollutants in Brunei Darussalam. Presently no study have been undertaken to properly investigate the contribution of these sources to severe episodes of haze in the country.

Emission from motor vehicles

6.

In the absence of major industrial activities in the country the motor car is the predominant source of air pollution. 1992 figures show that the number of registered vehicles in Brunei Darussalam was 144,159. In the Greater Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB) air quality is affected by vehicular traffic emitting CO, NOx, particulate, HC, and SOx. However, the sulphur content of gasoline and diesel fuels used in Brunei is relatively low. Lead emission have also been reduced with the introduction of unleaded fuel in January 1993.

7.

Vehicle emission tests are also being carried out as part of the registration process. The testing of gasoline vehicles include emission test for carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons at idle and for diesel vehicle a smoke test at free acceleration. Similarly, motor vehicles are also tested for carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon levels.

8.

Studies have not been undertaken to investigate the contribution of motor vehicle emissions to haze episodes in the country. Studies that have been made reveal that generally pollution levels from vehicles are low except for high concentrations in particular places.

Industrial emissions

9.

The following industries have been identified as major sources of air pollution in Brunei Darussalam:

Industry

Pollutant

i

A 10,000 barrels per day oil refinery with a 1,225 tonnes/day (t/d) crude distillation unit and 1,750 t/d reformate plant.

NOX, HC and SO2

ii

Electricity Power Stations (gas fired)

NOX, SO2 and noise

iii

Quarries

Dust, smoke and SO2

iv

Hot Mix Asphalt Plant

Dust, smoke, smell, SO2 and noise

v

Brick Kiln

Dust, smoke and SO2

10.

Again, no study have been undertaken to investigate the contribution of these sources to haze episodes in the country. Nonetheless, smoke from hot mix asphalt plants and brick kilns have been observed to contribute to occurrences of localised pollution problems

11.

There is no specific legislation to control air emissions from industries in Brunei Darussalam at the moment. Enforcement activities are relying mostly on the administrative orders and code of practice as well as the goodwill of the management.

12.

Consistent with Government policies, Brunei Shell has formulated its own Environmental Management Plan. The plan cover practices, procedures and standards pertaining to management of environmental quality including air quality.

Open burning

13.

Open burning at the moment is still a common practice. Open burning though discouraged is nonetheless observed during land clearing activities for development, agriculture, at construction sites and at rubbish dump sites. Uncontrolled open burning have also sometimes led to occurrences vegetation fires.

14.

Presently, open burning is not allowed at government rubbish dump sites and forest reserves. Again, enforcement activities are relying mostly on the administrative orders and code of practice as well as the goodwill of the public and contractors.

15.

The practice of open burning generate smoke which have been observed to cause cases of localised pollution problems. The contribution of open burning to episodes of severe haze in the country have also not been properly studied.

Forest fires

16.

Due to occurrences of dry spells vegetation fires occur quite frequently in Brunei Darussalam. As recorded by the Fire Department there were 382 reported cases of vegetation fires in 1994 which destroyed around 390 hectares of vegetation cover. The highest recorded occurrences of forest fires recorded in forest reserves were from May to September.

17.

The cause for the majority of the fires were unknown. But, for all known causes they were a result of open burning activities. Local vegetation fires can be argued as the major contributor for occurrences of haze episodes in the country but, their effect are mainly localised.

18.

The recent severe haze episode in 1994 which was one of the severe incidence of haze over the last 17 years in the region was understood to have been contributed by smoke from wildfires that have scorched about 80,000 hectares of forests and plantations in Kalimantan and Sumatra, Indonesia. Local vegetation fires might also have accentuated the problem.

Other sources

19.

The other sources of pollutants which could be potential contributors of haze episodes include volcanic eruptions and as a result of man's activities.

20.

The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, Philippines in 1991 was responsible for the volcanic fallout experienced in the Country. It was reported that as much as 0.024 g/sq. m of ash fell over Brunei Darussalam over a 24 hour period on June 15. However the contribution of Mt. Pinatubo eruption towards the severe haze episode in 1991 was not established.

21.

In April 1989 gas caught fire when a well blow out occurred in Rasau, Brunei Darussalam. The fire lasted from the 25th of April to the 8th of May . As a result thick smoke covered most part of Kuala Belait and Seria. Soot was also deposited in the area

22.

Earthworks and construction activities in Brunei Darusssalam is presently very active and is a potential source of dust. High dust levels of 240 ug/m3 have been recorded in residential and town areas. In an effort to control dust pollution, trucks carrying earth or gravel are required to cover their load. Dusty work sites are also asked to sprinkle water so as to suppress dust particles.

AIR QUALITY

Monitoring Mechanism

23.

Overall air quality of Brunei Darussalam has not been properly monitored nor quantitatively measured. Regular monitoring for haze are only being done by the Meteorological Service, Department of Civil Aviation at the Brunei International Airport. Of all the meteorological elements, haze has a more direct and immediate effect on the surface horizontal visibility. The data recorded by the Meteorological Service shows the number of hours and dates of severe haze occurrences when visibility reached levels equal to or less than 2000m and 5000m during the peak of the South-west Monsoon months of August, September and October, 1980-1994.

24.

The 1994 haze which first started in August deteriorated drastically in September and lasted until 3rd October with visibility dipping to nearly one kilometer at the Brunei International Airport. Meteorological observations taken at Brunei International Airport indicate that visibility less than or equal to five kilometers were registered for a total of 367 hours spread over 27 days for the three months as compared to just 97 hours over 9 days during the preceding severe hase episode in 1991. The year 1994 experienced the worst haze episode with visibility dipping to a record low level of less than 1 kilometer in the early morning hours on 1st October 1994.

Information Dissemination

25.

Information on occurrences of haze is disseminated through the media - television, radio and newspapers. As an example for the 1994 incident, the Ministry of Health issued a 'haze warning'. The public were advised to restrict outdoor activities that involve physical exertion. School children particularly were advised to refrain from outdoor physical exercise, sports and games. The Ministry also urged the public to refrain from open burning activities.

IMPACT OF CLIMATE FACTORS ON CAUSES OF HAZE

26.

It is accepted that haze commonly occur in this region during the South-West Monsoon period. However, there is considerable year to year variability. In drier years which tend to coincide with El-Nino years, occurrence of haze tends to be more frequent and severe.

27.

For the recent 1994 episode of haze it has been reported that the persistent large negative SOI (Southern Occulation Index) since March 1994 coupled with strong low-level inversion seems to be the main contributor to maintain a drier that usual weather in the region. Haze particles from vegetation fires in parts of Indonesia were gathered by the south-southeasterly winds which swung to become southwesterly winds near the southwest coast of Borneo, bringing in the particles into Brunei Darussalam. The presence of stable atmospheric conditions (strong low-level inversion) was responsible for trapping and concentrating the haze particles within the boundary layer. The prevalence of low-level south-southwesterly winds kept transporting the haze particles from extended sources (in Kalimantan).

28.

As expected the haze began to dissipate by October as rainfall begin to pick up and the persistent south to southwesterly wind flow begin to give way to northeasterly winds.

IMPACTS OF HAZE EPISODES

29.

The impact of haze in the country have not been well documented in the past. During severe haze episodes it has been reported to have caused cancellation and delays in flights at the Brunei International Airport. The damage cost of such incidents have not been investigated.

30.

Nonetheless, the most direct impact of haze is on human health. It has been established that excessive air pollution can be associated with aggravation of respiratory diseases such as asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Suspended particulate matter particularly PM10 which is the main factor to haze occurrence, together with nitrogen oxides and ozone have been shown to possibly trigger lung function changes and asthmatic attacks among exposed asthma patients.

31.

For Brunei Darussalam the incidence of upper respiratory infections in the country has always been one of the highest recorded morbidity in the country. So far no correlation studies have been carried out between air pollution and acute respiratory infections (ARI) in detail in the country. There were notably, some increase of ARI, asthma and bronchitis during the period of haze. The total number of ARI/ bronchitis and asthma is shown below for the period of 1993 and 1994:

Cases in 1993

Cases in 1994

Asthma

9,280

10,718

Bronchitis

821

0

ARI

68,110

67,862

NATIONAL PLANS

Air Quality Monitoring

32.

 

The lack of information due to the lack of studies in the area is one area that needs improvement. As a start, plans have been made by the Pollution Control Unit of the Medical and Health Department for two Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations (AAQMS) to be installed, one in the capital and the other in Belait District. The equipment intended to be installed in the proposed stations are capable of monitoring the required parameters continuously (24 hours monitoring). The Meteorological Services, Department of Civil Aviation also plans to expand their air pollution monitoring capabilities.

33.

At present Brunei Darussalam is yet to establish a comprehensive legislation which contains regulation and standards pertaining to protection and control of air quality. However, Brunei Darussalam has scheduled to set emission standards for proper enforcement by 1996. Currently, whenever required, internationally accepted standards are used as references e.g. WHO and ASEAN member countries.

Forest Fires

34.

Efforts are also being made to prevent forest fires. They include physical measures such as putting up fire breaks - in forest reserves to prevent fire spreading; observation towers - fire look out for early detection and warning; and fences - prevent people entering some fire sensitive areas.

35.

Other measure involve putting up sign boards to warn the public regarding potential causes of forest fires and campaigns to increase public awareness. Such awareness programmes also educate the public on the importance of the forest ecosystem and the need to protect them from being destroyed.

36.

Existing legislation as contained in the Forest Act - prohibits a person to kindle, keep or carry any fire, or leave any fire burning that may endanger the reserved forests. There are also other do's and don'ts which has to be obeyed to when in forest reserves.

37.

Proposals for further improvements to be made in the management of forests will be made in the coming seventh National Development Plan.

 

REGIONAL COOPERATION

 

Regional appreciation

38.

Brunei Darussalam acknowledge the fact that haze is commonly experienced in the region during the South-West Monsoon season. Apart from localised incidents the occurrence of severe haze tend to be more regional in nature though severity of haze episodes may differ from one country to another.

39.

There is a need for a regional appreciation of the problem since it requires a regional approach to address the issue. Between the ASEAN member countries there are different level of institutional and technical capability. Therefore through cooperative efforts in information exchange and institutional strengthening Brunei Darussalam see the opportunity for both national and regional capacity building to address the problem of transboundary haze. In this regard Brunei Darussalam supports in principle the establishment of an ASEAN cooperative plan to manage transboundary pollution/haze as proposed by Malaysia.

 

ASEAN cooperative plan to manage transboundary pollution/haze

40.

An ASEAN cooperative plan to manage transboundary pollution/haze containing, among others:

i

comprehensive measures for prevention, management and control;

ii

establishment of an early warning system including identification of focal points for information exchange;

iii

building of national and regional institutional capacity; and

iv

establishing cooperative links with developed countries to assist ASEAN's efforts.

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