KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ Authorities will cancel Malaysian plantationowners’ licenses if they burn vegetation to clear land, an annual ritual thatproduces a pervasive, hazardous haze, an official said Friday.
The Malaysian Palm Oil Board can punish errant plantation owners by revokingtheir permit to sell palm oil, an aide to Plantations Industries and CommoditiesMinister Peter Chin told The Associated Press, speaking on condition ofanonymity because he is not authorized to make media statements.
“Let this be a warning,” The New Straits Times quoted Chin as saying. “Weare monitoring the plantations in Malaysia very closely.”
The return of a now annual haze early this week has prompted authorities toannounce plans for cloud seeding _ when rain is chemically induced.
At least three areas in Malaysia reported unhealthy air quality earlier thisweek, although conditions have since improved.
The choking haze often occurs during the midyear dry season, when farmers _some in Malaysia but most in Indonesia_ set illegal brush fires to clear landfor planting.
Last year, air pollution reached such critical levels that Malaysia declareda state of emergency.
Singapore and Malaysia have repeatedly complained to Indonesia about thefires over the past decade, and have offered various forms of help. Economicallystruggling Indonesia says it lacks the resources to fight the fires and enforceanti-burning laws.
Malaysia and Indonesia have agreed to step up enforcement against openburning, Chin was cited as saying.