MIRI, May 4 (Bernama) — Cloud seeding will be carried out Thursday over Miri and its outskirts, particularly in the Sarawak-Brunei transboundary region in Kuala Baram to help put out peat forest fires, Assistant Minister for the Environment Dr Abang Abdul Rauf Abang Zen said Wednesday.
He said Royal Malaysian Air Force aircraft would be mobilised in the operation as there were two hotspots still razing out of nine areas, detected by the task force of the Miri Division Natural Disaster and Relief Committee.
“This is to prevent the condition from worsening. It is to help induce rain to help clear the air and douse the fires which occur mostly in forests and beneath peat soil,” he told reporters after joining the Miri Division Natural Disaster and Relief Committee’s inspection of the worst-affected area in Kuala Baram.
Miri has been severely affected by hot weather condition plus smog in recent weeks, and with unhealthy air pollutant levels for four consecutive days from April 27.
Among the efforts undertaken by the Disaster Relief Committee was getting the private sector to assist personnel from the Fire and Rescue Services Department to douse fires apart from building trenches in the affected areas.
The authorities had also erected 21 signboards at strategic places reminding people that it is an offence to carry out open burning, especially in non-native land, without prior approval from the Natural Resources and Environment Board.
Abang Abdul Rauf said investigation papers were on their way to the State Attorney General on three companies that allegedly conducted open burning on their land in the Miri outskirts.
“The State AG will decide whether to prosecute the three companies causing the haze and deteriorating air quality here in the past three weeks,” he said.
Section 30 (2) of the Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) Ordinance provides a maximum fine of RM30,000 and imprisonment of up to three years upon conviction. Offenders were also liable to a fine of RM9,000 per day for failing to douse the fires within a stipulated time. Apart from the companies, four persons had been caught for open burning but had their cases compounded for RM200 on the spot. Abang Abdul Rauf urged the people to co-operate fully with the authorities on a zero tolerance campaign to ensure no more cases of open burning as Miri gears up to be elevated to city status on May 20 to become the second city in Sarawak, after Kuching.
The open burning and wild fires had escalated to dangerous levels last week, shrouding the municipality from the Sarawak-Brunei transboundary ‘Asean Bridge’ region to the south Lambir outskirts with smog and ash.