Malaysia: Sarawak haze worsens; visibility in Kuching down to 1.2km

Goh Pei Pei New Straits Times 6 Sep 19;

KUCHING: The haze in Sarawak worsened today, with visibility in the state capital here reduced to 1.2km.

Five other areas are also shrouded in smoke and recorded Air Pollution Index (API) readings of “unhealthy” as of 9am.

Sri Aman registered the highest API of 166, followed by Miri at 133, Kuching at 125, Sibu at 123 and Sarikei at 109.

Stations in Kuala Baram, Bintulu, Samalaju, Mukah, Kapit, Limbang and Miri recorded moderate API readings of between 62 and 99, said Sarawak State Disaster Management Committee secretariat, Major Ismail Mahedin.

Meanwhile, motorists in Kuching have been advised to exercise extra caution amidst reduced visibility.

The haze is believed to be caused by 455 hotpots which have been detected in Kalimantan, Indonesia.

Four hotspots have also been detected in Betong, Serian, Bintulu and Miri.

An API reading of 0 to 50 is categorised as good, 51 to 100 (moderate), 101 to 200 (unhealthy), 201 to 300 (very unhealthy), and over 301 (hazardous).

Increased hotspots and more hazy areas
Teoh Pei Ying New Straits Times 7 Sep 19;

KUALA LUMPUR: The hazy conditions in the country particularly in the west coast of the Peninsula and western Sarawak are due to increased number of hotspots in Sumatra and Kalimantan, Indonesia.

Malaysian Meteorological Department director-general Jailan Simon in a statement today said haze was expected to worsen if open burning in Indonesia was not brought under control.

“The probability of heavy rains in Sumatra, Kalimantan and our country is low in the coming weeks.

“In this regard, the possibility of our country being affected by transboundary haze is still high, especially in the west and south of the Peninsula as well as in west Sarawak. The haze may last until the end of the Southwest monsoon,” he said.

Malaysians meanwhile are advised to minimise outdoor activities; wear face masks; drink plenty of water and avoid open burning in the current hazy weather.

Based on Department of Environment (DoE) data, Johan Setia Klang was the only area to record unhealthy Air Pollutant Index (API) of 105 in the Peninsula as of noon.

In Sarawak, Kuching recorded very unhealthy air quality at 214 and seven areas recorded unhealthy - ILP Miri (113); Miri (148); Mukah (103); Sarikei (135); Sri Aman (180); Samarahan (197); and SK Kuala Baram 2 (113).

The API is categorised as ‘good’ from 0 to 50, ‘moderate’ (51-100), unhealthy (101-200), very unhealthy (201-300) and hazardous (301 and more).

The public can refer to the Department of Environment (DOE) website at or by downloading the MyIPU mobile application to get hourly API readings.

Meanwhile, the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC) said weather remained dry over many parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan today.

“With dry conditions expected to persist over many areas in Sumatra and Kalimantan, hotspot activities and hazy conditions there are likely to continue," it said.

“In Sumatra, persistent hotspots with smoke haze continued to be detected in the provinces of Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, and Lampung. Moderate to dense smoke haze from the hotspots in Riau has been blown by the prevailing winds toward the Strait of Malacca.

“In West Kalimantan, moderate to dense smoke haze was observed to emanate from scattered hotspots in the province. Some of the smoke haze has been blown by the prevailing winds toward western Sarawak.”

Cloud seeding unlikely to end haze in Sarawak
Goh Pei Pei New Straits Times 7 Sep 19;

KUCHING: Cloud seeding will not resolve the haze situation in Sarawak if forest fires and open burning activities in Indonesia, particularly in neighbouring Kalimantan, continue.

Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said the operation could only ease the situation temporarily as the haze will return due to the wind direction.

“It is pointless for us to conduct cloud seeding if the burning activities in Indonesia continue. So, I hope Putrajaya will be more firm and urge the Indonesian government to take immediate action to tackle the issue – to douse the forest fires,” he said.

Uggah, who also the state’s Sarawak State Disaster Management Committee (JPBN) chairman, said school principals and headmasters can decide to temporarily close schools if the Air Pollutant Index (APi) readings reach the "very unhealthy" level of over 201.

However, the ongoing Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) examination will continue despite the high API readings recorded, said JPBN secretariat Chief Major Ismail Mahedin.

He said some 200,000 face masks were given to the education department, which will distribute them to school children in the affected area in the state.

“As part of our preparations, we have handed the face masks to the education department and briefed them on school closure as well as guidelines for teachers and officers on duty or in charge of UPSR,” he said.

A total of 40,448 pupils are sitting for the UPSR in Sarawak, which began on Wednesday, before continuing on Sept 10 (Tuesday) to 12.

“The visibility in the state’s capital has reduced to 700m today (Saturday) from 1.4km yesterday.

The visibility during normal days is 10km and above. Thus, motorists and road users were urged to drive carefully while those riding the motorcycles must use a face mask, he added.

Out of the total 13 API stations in Sarawak, two stations; namely Kuching and Samarahan recorded ‘very unhealthy at 221 and 203, respectively, as of 5pm.

Another five stations showed ‘unhealthy’ air quality which included ILP Miri (117), Miri (151), Sarikei (133), Sri Aman (176), and Kuala Baram (117).

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

A total 12 hot spots were detected in Sarawak,1,087 in Kalimantan and 306 in Sumatera.

Fire and rescue department has recorded a total of 97 forest and peat land fires since Sept 1.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail in a statement today said the National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA) would continue monitoring the situation in the affected areas.

She said the Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) was also looking into conducting cloud seeding operations taking into account the atmospheric conditions in the areas.

"The people especially those in Sarawak are advised to stay indoors and to wear face masks when out in the open, to avoid health problems," she said.

MetMalaysia also urged people to reduce outdoor activities, wear a mask, drink plenty of water and do not engage in open burning.

Its director-general Jailan Simon in a statement said the possibility of heavy rains occurring there and in Malaysia was low during the next one week, and as such, there was a high possibility for the haze to continue particularly in western and southern Peninsular Malaysia, as well as western Sarawak.

The haze is expected to remain until the end of the southwest monsoon and the situation could worsen if fires in Indonesia are not contained, Jailan added.

Information on the weather forecast can be accessed through the MetMalaysia website or the myCuaca app.

Haze to persist; MetMalaysia on standby for cloud seeding
Teoh Pei Ying New Straits Times 8 Sep 19;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) is in standby mode to conduct cloud seeding operations to ease the worsening haze situation across the country.

However, its director-general, Jailan Simon, said that they must wait for atmospheric suitability before attempting the operations.

“At the moment, atmospheric conditions in (the worst-affected areas) are not suitable for the operation. (If we proceed now, the operation) is unlikely to succeed.

“(Also), the cost of cloud seeding is high, (so we must be careful to carry out the operation when the situation) is most favourable,” he told the New Straits Times today.

Nevertheless, Jailan warned that cloud seeding would have limited effect in mitigating the haze unless the forest fires raging in Sumatra and Kalimantan in Indonesia are brought under control.

“The winds are still blowing from the southwest (from Sumatra, and the east from Kalimantan). Even if cloud seeding is done, the haze will come back if fires persist in Sumatra and southern Kalimantan.

“(We must therefore wait for the arrival of) the southwest monsoon, which is expected in late September or early October,” he added.

There may be a brief respite in the short term.

“(There has been a drop in the number of) hotspots in Kalimantan. There are 446 today, compared to 704 detected on Saturday. The number of hotspots in Sumatra also dropped from 68 to 52 (so that is good news),” Jailan said.

He added that there are also three hotspots in Peninsular Malaysia and a total of 39 hotspots in Sabah and Sarawak.

As of 3pm, two areas in Sarawak registered “very unhealthy” Air Pollutant Index (API) readings – Sri Aman at 241 and Kuching at 224.

“Unhealthy” APIs were recorded in eight locations nationwide. They are Selangor (Johan Setia Klang - 125); and Sarawak (Miri – 158; Mukah – 115; Sibu – 190; Sarikei – 183; Samarahan – 199; and Kuala Baram – 120).

An API of 0 to 50 is categorised as ‘good’, ‘moderate’ (51-100), ‘unhealthy’ (101-200), ‘very unhealthy’ (201-300) and ‘hazardous’ (301 and more).

Meanwhile, according to the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC), the haze will persist over the next few days as dry conditions continue to affect many locations in the region.

“In Sumatra, we continue to observe moderate-to-dense smoke from hotspots in the provinces of Riau, Jambi, and South Sumatra. Prevailing winds have been blowing some of the smoke… toward the Strait of Melaka.

“In West Kalimantan, scattered hotspots continue to emit moderate-to-dense smoke, which has been blown by prevailing winds towards western Sarawak,” it said.

For the latest information on the haze situation, visit the Department of Environment’s (DoE) website at or download the MyIPU mobile application.

Hazy days till month’s end
The Star 8 Sep 19;

Smoky gloom: Claudia Freddy and Rita Patrick taking a wefie on the Darul Hana Bridge in Kuching. The city recorded an unhealthy API reading of 206 yesterday.

KUALA LUMPUR: The haze in Malaysia is likely to persist until the end of this month in view of the low chances of heavy rains and the possibility of uncontrolled open burning.

Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) director-general Jailan Simon said the transboundary haze was expected to continue until the southwest monsoon period ends in late September.

“Chances of heavy rain in Sumatra, Kalimantan, Indonesia and our country are low in the coming week. As such, the possibility of the country experiencing transboundary haze is still high, especially for the western and southern regions of the peninsula and west Sarawak,” he said in a statement yesterday.

He said the haze shrouding several areas in the country, especially in the west coast of the peninsula and west Sarawak, was due to the increase in hotspots in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

The haze, he said, would worsen if open burning in the neighbouring country was left uncontrolled. Yesterday, nine areas nationwide were flagged as having worrying air pollutant index (API) levels.

Eight of these areas were in Sarawak, with Kuching and Samarahan recording a “very unhealthy” API level of over 200.

Kuching had the most polluted air quality yesterday, with its API level hitting 221 as at 5pm.

Samarahan recorded a level of 203.

In Peninsular Malaysia, the API level in Johan Setia in Klang was at 105.

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.

While other areas nationwide recorded “moderate” API levels, some were close to being categorised as “unhealthy”.

Among others, Petaling Jaya and Shah Alam were at 96. These two areas had API levels ranging between 64 and 70 last week.

Other areas with high API levels yesterday included Nilai in Negri Sembilan (95), Putrajaya (96) and Kangar (90).

Hourly API readings are available on the Department of Environment (DOE) website at

Data from the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC) showed five hotspots in Peninsular Malaysia and another five across the South China Sea on Sept 6.

The hotspot count on that day also showed that Kalimantan recorded 780 hotspots while Sumatra had 66.

An update by ASMC on Friday said generally dry conditions were expected to prevail in the southern Asean region.

“With the weather likely to remain generally dry over the next few days, the hotspot and haze situation in Sumatra and Kalimantan can be expected to persist,” the update said.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said yesterday that MetMalaysia was studying the feasibility of cloud seeding to induce rain in areas affected by haze.

Dr Wan Azizah also said the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) and the Sarawak government would allocate funds to provide masks to the people in the state.

As for students sitting for the Mathematics and Science papers of the UPSR examination in areas affected by haze in Sarawak next week, they will be provided with face masks.

Bernama, quoting head of the Sarawak disaster management committee secretariat, Major Ismail Mahedin from the Sarawak Civil Defence Force, reported that the face masks had been handed over to the state education department for distribution to students in Kuching, Samarahan, Serian and Sri Aman.

“If the API readings exceed 201, schools will be closed but the UPSR examination will go on as scheduled under strict supervision by the school and exam invigilators,” he said in a statement.

A total of 40,448 students are sitting for the UPSR in the state. The Mathematics and Science papers are scheduled for Sept 10 to 12.

Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said the Federal Government must be more assertive in calling for Indonesia to deal with open burning.

Putrajaya must consult with Jakarta on how to resolve the issue, he was quoted as saying by Bernama.


2 outdoor events called off as Kuching continues to have 'very unhealthy' air quality
Goh Pei Pei New Straits Times 8 Sep 19;

KUCHING: Residents in the state capital, Samarahan and Sri Aman woke up to yet another day shrouded by haze, which also saw two outdoor events being called-off.

The highly anticipated “Stop The Stigma” run organised by Sarawak General Hospital cancelled one of its events after Kuching continued to record an ‘unhealthy’ Air Pollutant Index (API) reading.

The 4km and 12km runs to promote and raise awareness on mental health could not be carried out. However, other activities such as aerobics, free breakfast, health screenings and lucky draw proceeded as planned.

Also biting the dust was Kuching North City Hall’s “Kayuhan Berbasikal Maal Hijrah 2019” scheduled at 7am today.

The haze in Sarawak continued to be bad with two stations recording ‘very unhealthy’ and several others ‘unhealthy’ reading on the API.

Sri Aman recorded the highest API reading of 239 and Kuching 223 while the air quality in Saramahan has shown slight improvement with API 214 at 6am dropping to 200 at 1pm.

Three stations in the Miri district showed ‘unhealthy’ readings with ILP Miri at 142, Miri (156) and SK Kuala Baram (117).

Meanwhile, Sarikei, Sibu and Mukah also recorded ‘unhealthy’ readings at 180, 188 and 112, respectively.

An API reading of 0 to 50 is categorised as good, 51 to 100 (moderate), 101 to 200 (unhealthy), 201 to 300 (very unhealthy), and over 301 (hazardous).

Meanwhile Bernama reports that the haze has not disrupted flights at the Kuching International Airport.

A spokesperson at the airport’s information counter said as of 12 noon today, they had not been informed of any flights being cancelled.

“Everything is going on as normal,” he said, adding that in the event the haze worsens and leads to reduced visibility, there was likelihood that flights may be cancelled or postponed.