Brunei Darussalam — As haze from forest fires set to clear land is blanketing parts of the Indonesian section of Borneo, Brunei too experienced hazy conditions yesterday.
The air quality in the Sultanate yesterday entered the moderate range as the Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) readings recorded from all air quality monitoring stations (PMIO) in all districts were higher than normal, with the highest being 74 as of 5pm.
Visibility was also down but still stood at 5,000 metres or five kilometres.
In West Kalimantan province, where an overwhelming majority of the 344 hotspots detected on the island are found, the haze was thick early in the morning, limiting visibility to under 200 metres, but by 9am visibility improved to around 2,000 metres, according to an official from the meteorology station at Pontianak.
Meanwhile, Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan warned the haze in the state was expected to worsen.
He told the New Straits Times that the Meteorological Services Department had forecast “less than normal” rainfall in Borneo until the end of the year, giving rise to more bush fires and more haze.
The Asean Meteorological Centre has reported that there were around 30-500 hotspots observed in some parts of the region. The number of hotspots observed in Borneo (south west) between August 6 and 13 was around 120370, according to a press release from the Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation, Ministry of Development, yesterday.
“People are still using fire to clear ground for the new planting season. Nothing has changed and it is hard to get them to shed the practice,” AFP quoted an official in Potianak.
The Indonesian government has outlawed land clearing by fire but weak enforcement means the ban is largely ignored.
Satellite imaging also showed a few hotspots in East Kalimantan province, along with 26 on Sumatra island, mostly in the provinces of Jambi and South Sumatra.
Brunei’s Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation said it will continue to monitor the air quality while the Fire and Rescue Department will continue to conduct ground surveillance and attend to any fire occurrences.
The Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation said it is working closely with its counterparts in the region to monitor the situation.
In the meantime, the public has been advised to refrain from conducting any open burning activities and other actions that may result in bush fires. They have also been advised to immediately inform any incidence of bush fires to the Fire and Rescue Department.
The public can contact the Department of Environment, Recreation and Parks for any enquiries at 2383222 ext 514 during working hours.