Malaysia: Cloud seeding may not work to diminish heatwave

The Star 25 Mar 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for cloud seeding to curb hot and dry weather conditions caused by El Nino has yet to be finalised, says Science Innovation and Technology Minister Datuk Seri Madius Tangau.

As of now, the SOP on cloud seeding says that such operations would only be done when there is haze and the air quality reaches unhealthy levels.

“We have received many requests and recommendations to carry out cloud seeding.

“But, we have to consider El Nino as a whole.

“If we do cloud seeding today, the weather will still be hot and dry tomorrow, and the same problem will recur,” he said at Menara Matrade here yesterday.

Tangau also said the SOP required that cloud seeding be approved by a special committee chaired by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Shahidan Kassim.

However, the worry of more hotter days are now diminishing because the heatwave has weakened and El Nino will slow down by June.

Tangau added that six places in the country had recorded temperature levels of between 37ºC and 39ºC as at 4pm yesterday.

The highest was Batu Embun, Pahang (37.8ºC); followed by Chuping, Perlis and Temerloh, Pahang (37.7ºC); Alor Setar (37.6ºC); Lubok Merbau, Kedah (37.4ºC); and Seberang Prai (37ºC).

Tangau was at Menara Matrade to present prizes to the winners of the 2015 Malaysia Design Competition and the 2015 MRM-IBag Design Competition.

The competition by Malaysia Design Council and organised by the ministry serves as a platform for young local designers to display their creativity in generating new ideas and concepts.

Dengue dips in dry spell
VEENA BABULAL New Straits Times 24 Mar 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Despite the intensifying heat, the prolonged dry spell has brought about a positive effect — a dip in number of dengue cases.

Deputy director-general of Health Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman, who confirmed the decline in cases to the New Straits Times, said “outdoor breeding places were drying up”.

Dr Lokman said dengue cases had dropped for the three weeks running up to March 19.

He said 2,247 cases were recorded in the 11th week of the year, while 2,556 and 2,719 cases were recorded in the 10th and ninth week of the year, respectively.

The eighth week recorded 2,885 cases from 2,785 the week before, based on data on the Health Ministry’s National Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre’s Facebook page.

“This (trend) is expected to continue until the end of next month or early May, coinciding with the pattern of rainfall.

But we are preparing a strategy to prevent a rise in cases expected in June,” he said.

In its latest statement, the ministry said 32,925 dengue cases had been recorded up to the 11th week of this year, an increase of 2,035 cases (6.6 per cent) compared with the same period last year.

“There have been 82 deaths this year compared with 98 for the same period last year,” the statement read.

Seven deaths were recorded nationwide last week, with two in Selangor, Federal Territories and Putrajaya (2), Johor (2) and Perak (1), compared with 16 deaths the week before. The outbreak peaked in the fourth week of the year, with 3,750 cases.

The ministry also noted 202 hotspots, with Selangor topping the list with 151 hotspots, followed by Johor (37), Perak (6), Federal Territories and Putrajaya (4), Terengganu (2) and Penang (1).

The ministry said it was monitoring and conducting prevention and control activities to reduce the number of cases.

“We hope communities keep their surroundings free of Aedes breeding sites.

Fogging will be done in areas where dengue patients reside.

This is important so that adult mosquitoes that carry the virus can be killed and prevented from spreading the disease.”

Depressing yields for farmers
New Straits Times 24 Mar 16;

CHUPING: The hot and dry weather brought about by the El Nino phenomenon since early this year has caused losses for small-scale fruit and vegetable growers in Perlis and Kedah.

Among those affected by the extreme weather were farmers growing corn, cucumber, mango, pomelo and watermelon.

Farmer Muhd Solihin Mat, 22, said half of the corn plants in his 0.863ha field had failed to produce fruits. “Usually, we would harvest the corn after 70 days.

This time however, even after more than 70 days, half the plants have yet to produce any fruit. “The stalks and leaves are thin and small.

I have been growing corn for about five years and have never encountered such a situation before.

“I think the corn plants’ growth was stunted by the dry spell.”

Solihin said that despite the depressing yield, wholesale prices for grade A corn remained at 50 sen per crop, grade B (30 sen) and grade C (RM20 per 30kg sack). “There is little demand for corn.

Hence, the prices have remained the same despite the situation.”

Azman Zakaria, 44, who grows pomelo and has a stall in Changlun, Kedah, said he was forced to import the fruit from Thailand as his trees had failed to produce enough fruits.

“If I do not import the pomelo fruit from Thailand, I would not have enough fruits to sell at my stall.

“The problem is that, since the value of the ringgit has weakened, the cost to import the fruit has increased, and I am forced to sell the fruits at between RM12 and RM15 each compared with local pomelo, which is priced at between RM8 and RM10 each.

“Apart from that, each pomelo, which usually lasts up to 10 days in normal weather, spoils after only five days now.”

Cucumber farmer Mokhtar Ismail, 53, said he also experienced a decrease in production since February.

“I used to be able to collect about 300kg of cucumber per day from my farm, but in the last two weeks, I could only get about 250kg.

“The growth of the cucumber plants seems to be stunted while their lifespan has been reduced to less than two months.”

Mokhtar said due to the limited supply of cucumber, wholesale prices had increased to RM1.50 per kg from 50 sen and 80 sen per kg previously.

Mokhtar, who also owns a harumanis mango farm, said the production of the aromatic fruit may also be affected this season as many of his plants were experiencing premature falling of its fruits, especially in the past three weeks.

“Some of the harumanis fruits only last for up to two or three weeks.

“I fear that if this situation continues, we may suffer great losses as I do not think the retail price of harumanis can go much higher than the existing RM35 to RM45 per kg.”

As for Mohammad Ridzuan Yusof, 34, who manages a watermelon farm, he said the quality of his watermelons was affected while some of his plants had died earlier this month.

The dry spell has led to a reduction in the production of grade A watermelons by about 60 per cent.”

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