Malaysia: Penang providing face masks to primary schools

JOLYNN FRANCIS The Star 3 Sep 15;

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang state government will be giving out masks to primary schoolchildren after air quality approached unhealthy levels here.

State Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh the state exco meeting Wednesday decided that the masks would be distributed on Thursday and Friday.

"The haze for the last three days has averaged 84 on the air pollution index (API) for the island and 98 on the mainland," he told a press conference in Komtar.

He added that the haze is expected to last till November.

"The Meteorological Department said haze conditions are expected to last till October, but based on our experience it will continue until November when the northeast monsoon starts," he said.

He also said he managed to meet Indonesia's Minister of Environment during the Fifth Regional 3R Forum in Asia and the Pacific in February last year to discuss the matter.

"They have given assurance to do their best to curb open burning," he said, adding the topic was also in discussion among Malaysian and Indonesian delegates in the Sixth Regional 3R Forum in Asia and the Pacific in Male this year.

380 hotspots detected
HANIS ZAINAL The Star 3 Sep 15;

PETALING JAYA: The haze could become worse should the smoke from hotspots in neighbouring Indonesia cross over to the country.

There are currently 380 hotspots in Sumatra and nine in Kalimantan, up from 200 on Monday, according to the Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

Dr Wan Junaidi said the Environ­ment Department was closely monitoring the situation.

The department, he said, was monitoring the status and trend of air quality hourly due to the uncertainty of the haze (pattern).

The increase in the number of hotspots in Sumatra and Kalimantan could potentially cause the haze (in Indonesia) to cross the border into the West Coast of Malaysia and Sarawak, he said yesterday.

“Seven hotspots have been identified in the country, one in Sabah and the other six in Pahang,” said Dr Wan Junaidi.

The Fire and Rescue Department’s assistant director-general (operations) Zulkarnain Mohd Kassim said the department would also closely monitor the hotspots.

“Now it’s still raining quite a lot, so it helps us in putting out the hotspots quite fast,” Zulkarnain said.

He said the rain meant there were fewer hotspots this year than during the same period last year, adding that the department was prepared to respond fast should the hotspots in the country increase.

The Malaysian Meteorological Depart­­ment’s National Weather Centre senior meteorologist Dr Hisham Mohd Anip said the dry season started late this year, which could explain the delayed presence of hotspots and haze.

“It usually starts in July but we had a lot of rain in July and August this year.

“The rainfall is considered above normal as during the south-west monsoon season, the rainfall is normally very little,” said Hisham.

He said the situation was similar in Indonesia, which was why the haze season started late this year.

“We are lucky this year, because the haze only started last week (in this country) and will hopefully clear out in two to three weeks when the inter-monsoon season starts,” he said.

As of 6pm yesterday, the Air Pollutant Index reached the unhealthy level in two areas – Bakar Arang in Sungai Petani (103) and Nilai, Negri Sembilan (101).