Concerted efforts to address root cause of haze in Malaysia

PETALING JAYA, Malaysia (The Star/ANN) - Malaysia has informed Indonesia of its concern regarding the impact of the persistent transboundary haze.

The government has also reiterated its offer to assist Indonesia in putting out forest fires, said Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (Mestecc) minister Yeo Bee Yin in a Facebook post.

Yeo and other Malaysian representatives had met with Indonesian Embassy officials, Minister Counsellor Agus Badrul Jamal and Information, Social and Cultural Affairs Counsellor Agung Cahaya Sumirat over the matter.

She also said Zainal Abidin Bakar, who is the Malaysian ambassador to Indonesia, had met with Indonesian senior officials on Monday to discuss the transboundary haze currently affecting the country.

Indonesia, she added, had committed to deploying 1,994 personnel in Sumatra and 860 personnel in Kalimantan to manage the haze issue.

Some 1,677 volunteers are also helping to extinguish the forest fires while 16 helicopters are being deployed in Kalimantan to conduct water bombing.

Yeo said there had been a “tremendous number of hotspots” in Kalimantan (811) and Sumatra (247).

“The dry spell and the Southwest Monsoon season has further worsened the impact of the transboundary haze in Malaysia.

“The peninsula is affected by the haze from Sumatra and Sarawak by Kalimantan.

“The (Malaysian) government will continue to do cloud-seeding whenever the situation allows and send assistance to Indonesia if and when they accept the offer, ” she said.

Meanwhile, the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) said half a million face masks were rushed to Sarawak to be distributed to folks in area where pollution levels had worsened due to the forest fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra.

“At the same time, Nadma and the Education Ministry are also working on getting face masks to be supplied to schools in the affected states, ” it said in a statement yesterday.

The air pollutant index (API) levels reached unhealthy levels in 19 areas nationwide.

The areas with unhealthy air include Rompin (195), Batu Muda (166), Cheras (153), Nilai (148) and Petaling Jaya (137).

The API levels in three areas in Sarawak that previously recorded very unhealthy readings over several days dropped to unhealthy levels.

Sri Aman recorded API level reading of 170 while Samarahan was 119 and Kuching was 141.

An API reading of between 0 and 50 is good; 51 to 100 (moderate); 101 to 200 (unhealthy); 201 to 300 (very unhealthy); and 301 and above is deemed hazardous.

According to Nadma, Malaysia has also offered Indonesia help to put out the fires but has yet to receive a request for assistance from its neighbour.

“Malaysia is always ready to work, collaborate and lend support apart from offering technical help to overcome the haze as it has done before in 1998 in Kalimantan and in 2005 in Riau, ” said Nadma.

Nadma also said that it was coordinating with the Meteorological Services Department (MetMalaysia) and the Royal Malaysian Air Force to conduct cloud-seeding in hard-hit areas.

In 1997, Malaysia had sent firefighters to Indonesia to help put out the fires raging across Sumatra and Kalimantan.

The mission, termed Operation Haze, took place over a span of 25 days in August that year to bring the fires under control as the number of hotspots reached over 37,000.

Nadma also advised people to stay indoors and wear face masks if they were in open areas to safeguard their health.

Nadma also advised people to stay hydrated and stop conducting open burning that could worsen the situation.

 

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