Malaysia — Several measures have been taken to prevent hotspots from sprouting here, including flooding peat soil area near Curtin Sarawak and suspending the issuance of permits for open burning.
Assistant Minister of Communications Datuk Lee Kim Shin said yesterday that serious peat soil fires as highlighted by a English daily was baseless because only two areas of opening burning were spotted from the watch tower in Permyjaya.
The reported fires are plantation fires and they were allowed to conduct open burning as the Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) had issued them permits earlier.
Most of the hot spots are in Sumatra (298 hotpots), while Sabah has four and Sarawak nine. There are four hot spots in Miri, comprising plantation fires and from shifting cultivation activities in Baram, he said.
Lee said this following a visit to Permyjaya to oversee the situation. He was accompanied by officers from NREB, Department of Environment (DOE) and Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID).
As a preventive measure, DID would flood the peat soil area next to Curtin Sarawak campus in Senadin. The operation would involve using three big pumps to siphon water from a nearby lake. Water levels in other peat areas would be increased by placing check gates, including tube wells and underground wells, he added.
Lee added that no more open burning would be allowed by NREB effective today. As such, he advised developers to be responsible and to keep a good eye on the activities of their contractors and sub-contractors.
If they (developers) happen to spot fires in their areas of operation, they should take the initiative to stop the fire from spreading. They must seek the assistance of the Fire and Rescue Department also, he said, adding that members of the public should do likewise.
Meanwhile, seven summonses were issued by DOE to companies and individual last year for conducting illegal open burning activities.