Malaysia –-MIRI: Authorities have cracked down on illegal open burning in the northern region.
Workers of a construction company and two farmers were caught red-handed by the Department of Environment (DOE) yesterday while carrying out illegal open burning in Kuala Baram district.
They were slapped with the maximum compound of RM2,000 each on the spot.
We caught them in the process of starting fires.
We will impose the maximum fine of RM500,000 or five years jail or both on those who continue to defy the prohibition against open burning.
There are still about 12 hectares of area burning in Kuala Baram district.
We have secured the help of Rela members and Civil Defence personnel, together with the Fire and Rescue Department team, said Siva Nathiran, the DOE enforcement chief for northern Sarawak.
DOE director-general Halimah Hasan has directed all DOE offices in the country to strictly impose the open burning prohibition order, he said, while underlining the Kuala Baram district, located between the city and the Sarawak-Brunei border, as a no-open-burning zone.
Technically speaking, there is still no haze in Miri city. The Air Pollutant Index (API) reading is quite high only near where there is open burning in Kuala Baram district.
The latest API reading (as at 5pm yesterday) at the reading station near the fire site is 121. In Miri city, the API is 51.
While it is not the whole of Miri that is affected, the DOE headquarters in Putrajaya has listed Kuala Baram as a no-open-burning zone strictly as a precautionary measure. This declaration also includes the Tudan and Permyjaya housing areas there.
The only burning allowed are those at crematoriums and religious sites, said Siva.
He said the DOE director-general also warned landowners that they would also be held accountable if they allowed their land to be used for open burning or let outsiders enter their land to carry out such activities.
The DOE is also seeking help from the public to put out small fires whenever they come across any.
This is to avoid it from spreading, he said, adding that the department had set up a hotline for the public to provide information on illegal open burning.
The toll-free line is 1-800-88-2727. The public can also call 03-888 919 721, the Miri DOE office at 085-426 994 or Miri Fire and Rescue Department at 085-422 973.
In the meantime, Communications Assistant Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin said as a preventive measure to prevent haze in Kuala Baram and Miri, the authorities had been told to pump water from seven underground tube wells to wet the peatland there.
The high API reading was only in one particular area near the industrial training institute in Kuala Baram, not the whole of Miri. Still, we must implement measures to prevent the recurrence of haze.
The DOE teams are patrolling the Kuala Baram areas while the Natural Resources and Environment Board has deployed teams to look into southern Miri, he added.
Burning away: The scene at the Kuala Baram district in the outskirts of Miri city yesterday where wildfire raged over 12 hectares near SJK Chung Hua Tudan. The Department of Environment has issued maximum compounds to three offenders caught starting fires in Kuala Baram Saturday.