Malaysians are due for another hazy spell unless the Indonesian authorities tackle the hundreds of forest fires raging in various parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan. Although showers and thunderstorms are expected over several places along the west coast states of the peninsula and Sarawak, they will offer only temporary relief as the hot and dry weather is not expected to end until September.
Meteorological Services Department director-general Yap Kok Seng said if the situation in Indonesia did not improve, Malaysians would face a longer period of haze due to the prolonged dry and hot weather.
However, it may not be as bad as last year because we have started taking steps and our officials are talking with our Indonesian counterparts on ways to handle the problem, he told reporters at his office yesterday. We are also prepared to carry out cloud seeding. This will be done when the Air Pollution Index (API) in a certain area reaches the unhealthy level of between 100 and 150 for a prolonged period of 72 hours or more.
For the first time since the return of haze, three of the Department of Environments 51 monitoring stations in Seberang Jaya in Penang, Port Klang and Seri Manjung in Perak recorded readings showing an unhealthy API mark. Thirty other monitoring stations recorded moderate API levels.
Yap said visibility in several parts of the country, including Prai, Butterworth, Chuping, Alor Star, Sitiawan and the Cameron Highlands had deteriorated to between 2km and 6km, while in Bayan Lepas and Ipoh, it was about 8km.
The hotspots detected by satellites in both Sumatra and Kalimantan, he said, had been increasing over the past six days. The latest satellite images showed about 150 hotspots in Sumatra and more than 130 in Kalimantan. He said Sabah and Sarawak could experience outbreaks of fire.
In Penang, Meteorological Services Department (Bayan Lepas) director S. Santhira Segaran said the situation in the state should improve over the next few days with the south-west monsoon winds expected to weaken and to blow in a westerly direction, affecting visibility in Perak and Selangor.
We may experience some localised showers within the next few days but it wont clear the haze. The situation will only improve if the number of hotspots can be controlled, he said.