Malaysia: Hotspots and open burning bring back haze

The Star 16 Aug 18;

KUCHING: The haze has returned to parts of Sarawak due to the rising number of hotspots in Kalimantan and open burning in the state.

State Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) controller Peter Sawal said 121 hotspots were detected across the border on Tuesday, more than double the day before.

Seven hotspots were also detected – two in Kuching, three in Mukah and one each in Sarikei and Sri Aman.

As at 2pm yesterday, nine areas in the state recorded moderate air pollutant index (API) readings with Mukah, the highest at 84.

A reading of 0-50 is considered good, 51-100 moderate and 101-200 unhealthy.

Sawal said the hazy conditions could last until the end of the month if there were no changes in the prevailing dry weather and wind direction.

“From the briefing by the Meteorological Department, we’re expecting this month to be dry with below normal rainfall.

“But things may change; we may experience intermittent rain and that will dampen the weather.

“However, we also monitor the situation because of the high number of hotspots detected across the border and the winds blowing towards us,” he said.

Sawal said a few incidents of local burning by farmers had been detected in Sibu, Mukah, Sri Aman and Betong.

“Our men on the ground are now advising local farmers to be vigilant in controlling and monitoring their burning to prevent it from spreading,” he said.

He also said NREB had stopped issuing permits for open burning to plantation companies since July and would take action against any illegal burning activities.

Offenders can be fined RM30,000 or prosecuted in court.

However, Sawal said better awareness and enforcement had resulted in a reduced number of illegal burning cases.

“For the past few years, our records show that incidents of illegal burning had reduced. I think they are aware of the seriousness of illegal open burning.

“At the same time, our concerted efforts mean they cannot escape. We can detect (open burning) through satellite and pinpoint the location,” he said. “Then, we proceed to the ground to verify it.”

In Miri, firemen were battling several wildfires in Mukah, Bintulu and Bintangor.

Some 10 acres of wildfires have been burning since Tuesday evening in Kampung Assykirin in Bintulu.

In Mukah, peatfires in Daro are being tackled while in Bintangor, wildfires have been contained at 60 acres (24.3ha) of the Felcra Bunut plantations.

Malaysians told to brave hot spell in Aug and Sept
Bernama New Straits Times 15 Aug 18;

KUALA LUMPUR: Several states in the peninsula, Sarawak as well as western parts of Sabah are expected to receive less than average levels of rainfall from August to September due to the current hot weather.

Besides Sabah and Sarawak, the other affected states are Perak, Selangor, Negri Sembilan Melaka as well as Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

In a statement issued to Bernama today, the Meteorological Department said the situation was due the current southwest monsoon season which brought heat and caused an increase in temperatures.

“The current hot weather that struck several parts of the country is expected to persist until this weekend, but it can still occur during the southwest monsoon period which is expected to come to an end by the end of September.

“All states except for Sarawak are expected to receive normal rainfall beginning September,” the department said adding that the less rainfall received during the period could also result in drought, haze and forest fires.

It said, during the monsoon period, the maximum temperature in the peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak was forecast to range between 34 degrees Celsius and 37 degrees Celsius.

Meanwhile, several parts of the west coast of the peninsula and Sarawak recorded moderate Air Pollutant Index (API) readings as of 6 pm, today.

According to the Department of Environment’s portal, Mukah in Sarawak recorded the highest reading at 85, while the other affected areas recorded moderate API of between 52 and 71.

An API reading of 0 to 50 indicates good air quality; 51 to 100, moderate; 101 to 200, unhealthy; 201 to 300, very unhealthy and 300 and above, hazardous.-- BERNAMA

Phee: We’re worried, the API is rising in Penang
tan sin chow The Star 16 Aug 18;

GEORGE TOWN: Penangites woke up to the haze which is expected to go on for the next few days.

Penang Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh says the state government will give out face masks to the public if the Air Pollutant Index (API) goes above 75.

A check on the Department of Environment website at 3pm yesterday showed that the readings in Seberang Prai, Seberang Jaya, Minden and Balik Pulau were hovering between 63 and 65.

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

“We expect worsening air quality although the air readings are still classified as moderate.

“Drink more water and avoid being caught in the rain as it could be acid rain,” he said.

“Under extreme hot weather, the rainwater which comes into contact with pavements or roads could gene­rate a ‘steam’ that is not good for health,” he added.

Phee said the haze was brought about by the Southwest Monsoon and the Northwest Monsoon, while the heat wave was also causing health problems.

“This is due to the suspended particles likely from the Lombok earthquake.

“Right now, there are no peat fires or hot spots in the region, and there are no flight cancellations,” he said.

State Health Committee chairman Dr Afif Bahardin said the hazy condition would not cause any major health issues other than irritation to the eyes, nose and throat.

“Those who are feeling unwell, especially the elderly and children, and those with chronic heart or lung conditions, are advised to seek medical attention immediately.”

Many people were seen buying “antelope’s horn and mak dong” drinks from a shop in Bayan Baru that sells an assortment of tradi­tional medicinal teas.

Supervisor Wong Wai Ching, 50, claims the homemade drinks, selling at RM11.20 for a 500ml bottle, could help cool the body.

“It also helps if you have a sore throat, loss of voice or are feeling feverish,” she said.

Unhealthy air quality in Perlis, Kedah, Penang and Sarawak
The Star 16 Aug 18;

PETALING JAYA: Perlis, Kedah and Penang have been hit by the haze, along with Mukah in Sarawak.

As at noon Thursday (Aug 16), the air quality was at unhealthy levels in Kangar (Perlis); Alor Setar and Sungai Petani (Kedah); Seberang Jaya and Seberang Perai (Penang); and Mukah.

The worst so far is Alor Setar, which had a reading of Air Pollutant Index (API) level at 157, according to the Air Pollutant Index of Malaysia.

According to the readings, the air quality in several areas started to climb from green or moderate (where the API is between 51-100) to yellow, or unhealthy (101-200), from Wednesday (Aug 15).

Kuala Lumpur is still in the green, though, with an API of between 65 (Cheras) and 67 (Batu Muda).

Petaling Jaya also recorded a moderate API reading of 63.

Yeo: No resources is no excuse not to fight open burning
The Star 16 Aug 18;

KUALA LUMPUR: Bucking up on enforcement, shifting resources and even borrowing cars and equipment – these are some of the measures Minister Yeo Bee Yin (pic) is taking to put an end to open burning as Malaysia simmers under a dry and hot season.

Yeo, who holds the Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change portfolio, said she had held meetings with the Department of Environment (DoE) and told them to buck up.

“Only two or three weeks ago, I realised that the DoE doesn’t even have cars to conduct enforcement. That’s ridiculous! And, they don’t even have enough equipment.

“I am shifting resources from the ministry to DoE to perform their jobs. I told them ‘no excuse’. If you don’t have cars, I will borrow these for us,” she said in an interview here yesterday.

Malaysia is currently facing sweltering temperatures, rising to as high as 37°C in Kapit, Sarawak, on Sunday.

The ministry, said Yeo, was serious in eradicating open burning, which also contributed to haze and pollution in the country.


“I want them (DoE) to give me a plan – there is no ‘cannot do’. Open burning is a tricky issue but as a government, we cannot say we cannot solve the problem.

“But I hope the public will give me some time,” she said

This includes setting the standard operation procedure with the lead agency as well as for DoE to get their act together. “Now, it’s completely direction-less,” Yeo said.

Asked if the ministry would seek to increase the penalties on those found guilty of open burning, Yeo said the current fine of up to RM500,000, imprisonment for up to five years, or both were “high enough”.

“The problem right now is that you cannot catch the culprits. So, we need to find a solution to bring them to court and make sure they are penalised.

“I’ve told DoE that I want enforcement to be strict and there will be no compromise,” she said.

On the probability of haze recurring this year, usually during the months of July and September, Yeo said this would “not be very high” due to lower number of hotspots detected in Indonesia this time around.

“But we have put together an emergency plan. For example, once haze reaches a certain level, we may carry out cloud seeding,” she said.

To a question if she would seek a meeting with Indonesian authorities, Yeo said: “I am trying to pay them a visit. If possible, I would like to discuss but time is short.”

200ha bushes in Sarawak destroyed in fire
Mohd Roji Kawi New Straits Times 16 Aug 18;

KUCHING: A total of 163 open burning cases were ravaging some 200 hectares of land were reported since early this month.

State Fire and Rescue Department director Nor Hisham Mohamad said the cases identified involved bush fire, open burning on garden or farm as well as peat land fire.

The first open burning cases for the month, he said, was reported in Miri on Aug 3 followed by seven cases recorded in other parts of the state during the following day.

“Since then, the department have been receiving reports on open burning involving forest, peat land and bushes until Wednesday (Aug 15).

“These areas are vulnerable to open burning especially during the hot and dry weather.

“The situation worsened if open burning occurred on peat land since it will made it harder for firefighters to put off the fire,” he said.

For this month, Nor Hisham said Sibu recorded the highest number open burning occurrence, which is 46 cases, involving forest and peat land fire.

A total of 23 cases in Miri followed by 14 cases in Mukah were reported during the same period.

He said 17 other areas statewide recorded below than 10 cases of open burning.

The areas are Kapit, Petra Jaya, Batu Lintang, Simunjan, Limbang, Bintulu, Tabuan Jaya, Tanjung Manis, Bintangor, Kanowit, Lundu, Siburan, Kota Samarahan, Serian, Betong, Sarikei and Saratok.

Nor Hisham reiterated his reminder against the public to avoid open burning especially during the current hot weather and dry spell.