Changing winds may bring haze back as early as this week: Malaysian minister

Today Online 15 Aug 16;

PETALING JAYA — Haze could hit Malaysia as early as this week, with Sarawak being most likely the first to be blanketed with smoke and dust particles, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said.

“Now is the transitional period of the changing winds. It may hit in a week or less, depending on the constant flow of the wind bringing the haze towards Malaysia,” he said.

“There is a possibility of it hitting this week if no action is taken by Indonesia to put out the fires and if the winds continue to blow towards Sarawak.”

He said when Indonesian representatives visited him last week, they talked about the problem extensively.

“We are monitoring the situation but the fires were also detected in Sarawak,” Mr Wan Junaidi said.

Last Friday (Aug 12), there were seven hotspots detected by the Meteorological Monitoring Centre in Singapore, 40 in Kalimantan and three in Sabah, with a scattering number in Western Sumatra.

A large number of hotspots in Kalimantan, Indonesia has sparked concerns Malaysia will soon find itself blanketed by haze.

A spokesman for the Malaysian Meteorological Department said the department was monitoring wind patterns closely.

“There have been sporadic fires over the past week but we are concerned about the recent spike in forest fires since smoke from these fires may soon be blown to the peninsular,” he said.

“We have been spared till now as the wind is blowing in a north-easterly direction. That could change if a low pressure depression moves further out.

The Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre recorded that the number of fires went from a dozen on June 29 to 32 on Aug 8, and by Aug 10, there were 87 more.

The hotspots then reduced to 50 by Aug 11 and 36 on Saturday.

The region is currently experiencing the southwest monsoon season and hot and dry weather is prevalent in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

“The prevailing dry weather in western and central Indonesia is expected to persist over the next few months and could see increased hotspot activity in vulnerable areas,” he said.

“Also this is usually the time farmers begin their slash-and-burn forest clearing. The sudden spike in the number of fires seems to indicate this has already begun.”

On Sunday, representatives from all 10 Asean member states adopted a roadmap on making the region haze-free by 2020.

The spokesman also said the haze in parts of the Klang Valley on Wednesday and Thursday were due to easterly winds carrying smoke across the Malacca Straits from northern Sumatra.

“This led to less than two days of mild haze but visibility remained good as high winds and rain had quickly dissipated it,” he said.

The 12th Conference of the Parties to the Asean Agreement on Trans-boundary Haze Pollution saw member states pledge to improve enforcement against open burning.

Indonesian senior adviser on energy to Minister of Environment and Forestry, Arief Yuwono assured Wan Junaidi Indonesia had taken pre-emptive steps to ensure there would not be a repeat of last year’s haze.

The measures include the deployment of 3,000 police and military personnel in vulnerable areas to prevent the starting of fires and better coordination between emergency services. MALAY MAIL ONLINE

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