Malaysianskies shrouded in haze from Indonesian fires
Publishedby Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa), 21 May 2003
Kuala Lumpur, 21 May 2003. Thick haze has returned to shroud Malaysian skies in a yearly occurence brought on by dry weather as well as increased fires in the Indonesian island of Sumatra, environmental officers said Wednesday.
The Department of Environment reported that satellite images on Tuesday detected 49 hot spots – areas showing high levels of heat caused by burning – in Sumatra, which were believed to be forest fires.
“The air problem we are facing now is caused by the burnings in Sumatra, but the dry spell is not helping as well,” the department spokesman told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
She said a total of 34 air quality stations, mostly located in the central Klang valley and the country’s west coast nearing Sumatra, reportedly had moderate Air Pollutant Index (API) readings, while 16 others were classified as good.
An index reading of zero to 50 indicates good air quality, 51 to 100 means moderate and above 100 is unhealthy.
“There is an undeniable deterioration in air quality in those areas.
“It’s still under control, but we want to alert the public to take precautions and refrain from carrying out any open burnings which would worsen the problem,” she said.
The dry spell was expected to last till August with light showers expected only at the end of next week, the official told dpa.
She said that “cloud-seeding” mechanisms were already on standby to help induce rain should the air quality situation in the country deteriorate further.
Hazy skies, a yearly problem faced in this area of the region, follow the end of the rainy season and an increase in fires in the Indonesian regions of Kalimantan and Sumatra, which are attributed to both deliberate land clearance and accidental outbreaks.
In 1997 and 1998, choking haze caused by forest fires in Indonesia enveloped the region, causing serious health and traffic hazards and disrupting airline schedules.
The haze then caused an estimated 9.3 billion dollars in economic losses.