Malaysia –-The relevant departments and agencies in Sarawak have been directed to review their standard operating procedure (SOP) on open burning, especially if it involved peat soil.
There are some weaknesses and that’s why there is a need to review the current SOP, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas said.
He was commenting on the open burning practices which has caused the haze to become an annual event in the state.
He admitted that in Sarawak, the state Natural Resources and Environment Board continues to allow open burning as a way to get rid of agricultural and plantation wastes.
The practice has been banned in peninsular Malaysia.
Asked why Sarawak cannot implement a zero-burning policy as has been done in the peninsula, Ungah said he could not comment.
I am sorry, that you have to ask the Sarawak Natural Resources and Environment Board, he said after a meeting with the Department of Environment and other agencies involved in tackling the fire and haze issue here.
Ungah said last week’s fire resulted in the Air Pollutant Index reaching more than 270 (unhealthy) in the Kuala Baram district.
Why did the API reached such an unhealthy level in that place? The peat fire is still a big problem for us.
It spreads very fast and burned very deep underground. At one stage, even the drains were on fire. I feel very sad that we continue to face such problems,” he said.
He said he will raise the issue at the federal Cabinet level.
“We need an air wing to deal with such fires in forested areas that are not accessible by road,” he said.