Malaysia — The Department of Environment (DoE) has been instructed to raise the water level in peat soil areas in states with large tracts of such soil in order to fight possible outbreaks of fire.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah told the media here today that this was one of the plans to stop the current haze problem from deteriorating.
“We have peat soil areas in Sarawak (Miri), Johor, Selangor and Pahang.
“DoE has been told to pump out water from tube wells in such areas in these states to flood their peat areas,” he said.
Uggah said this was critical because once the peat dried up, it would become very combustible and fighting its fires would be very time consuming and challenging, based on past experience.
“The moment the water level in these places drops by three to four metres, DoE will have to act.
“As such, the officers will have to go to the ground to monitor the level closely and daily,” he said.
Meanwhile, as at 7am today, the Air Pollution Index readings taken at 52 DoE stations nationwide, indicated that the air quality had improved with no station reporting unhealthy air.
“We will closely monitor the situation round the clock,” Uggah said.
He said DoE had also activated its action plan to prevent any open burning and its standard operating procedure to fight peat soil fires which were a local contributing source for the haze.
“For Sarawak, which is the only state to permit open burning by plantation owners, its Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) has been directed to put a freeze on the permit after any seven days of continuous dry weather,” he said.
“In view of the dry season, I would like to appeal to all to minimise any open burning, including by smallholders who should take steps to ensure their fire will not spread to other areas,” he added.
On another matter, Uggah said he would attend the Asean Ministerial Steering Committee meeting on transbounday haze scheduled to be held in Thailand next month.
“We will review the various action plans by member countries against transboundary haze.
“We will also look at the collaborations between Malaysia and Indonesia and between Singapore and Indonesia to reduce the problem and to look at efforts taken,” he said.
He added that Malaysia currently had very few hot spots while there were still some in Sumatra which contributed to the haze in Peninsular Malaysia, while the hot spots in Kalimantan were affecting Sarawak.