Malaysia — Fires at Kampung Johan Setia, where they often start during dryspells, have flared up again and are shrouding surrounding areas in thick acridsmoke.
It is a perpetual hide-and-seek game with the culprits, said SelangorEnvironment Department director Che Asmah Ibrahim.
The fires are usually started by illegal immigrants trespassing on theland. When our enforcement officers chase them, they run into the swampy peatland and are difficult to catch, she said.
The laws do allow us to go after the landowners. However, that is anotherarea of difficulty as the boundaries are not clear, Che Asmah said in aninterview.
On anti-open-burning surveillance, she said the departments enforcementteams were activated on Monday in fire-prone areas in Sepang, Klang, PetalingJaya, Gombak, Sabak Bernam and Kuala Selangor, and were also keeping watch onpeat lands within 1km radius of the KL International Airport and constructionsites in Kajang.
Hazy highway: Motorists driving along a smoke-covered section of the Kesas Highway in Klang on Thursday morning. The Selangor Environment Department can be reached at 03-5519 7233 or 03-55214051 (until 9pm), and at toll-free number 1-800-88-2727 (until 11am).
Meanwhile in JOHOR BARU, Fire and Rescue Department assistantdirector-general (operations) Zulkarnain Mohd Kassim said fires, mainly inplantations, had been detected in Kedah, Selangor, Sabah and Sarawak.
So far, the areas affected are small, only between one and five hectareseach, he said.
The Malaysian Remote Sensing Centre is giving constant updates on hotspotsnationwide.
Zulkarnain said the departments helicopters would fly firemen to areaswhere fire engines could not reach, and about 30 tankers had been deployed infire-prone areas nationwide.
Past experience showed that March, July and August are the most fire-pronemonths.
Johor state fire director Yusof Muhammad said 80% of plantation fires in thestate were due to land-clearing activities going out of control.