Malaysia — The haze in Johor and Malacca which forced the closure of schools in Muar has improv-ed.
As of 5pm yesterday, both Muar and Malacca recorded an air pollutant index (API) reading of 52 and 32 respectively, a sharp drop from the 432 and 111 figure on Wednesday.
The API experienced an improvement in quality from only 47% of 37 areas showing a good reading to 82% as of 5pm yesterday.
Healthy API readings are below 50, moderate (51-100) and unhealthy (101-200). Readings above 301 are deemed hazardous.
Despite the improving condition, government hospitals and clinics remain on standby to treat more people with haze-related illnesses if the air quality remains poor.
The haze has been attributed to fires at about 300 hotspots in Sumatra, Indonesia.
Many of these hotspots were caused by smallholders who clear trees from areas of peatland in order to grow oil palm or other crops.
According to Department of Environment (DoE) director-general Datuk Rosnani Ibrahim, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry had informed its counterpart in Indonesia to express concern over the matter.
On whether the ministry could compel Indonesia to stop smallholders from continuing with the practice, Rosnani said the government could only make a request.
On Friday, the Indonesian government sent hundreds of firefighters to battle blazes, concentrating on Sumatras Riau province, which lies opposite Singapore across the Straits of Malacca.
The most severe outbreak of haze took place in 1997.
Rosnani had said the current haze conditions would not be as bad as the one in 1997. In fact, she said the haze woes had improved over the years.