Malaysia — A MONTH of respite is all we get. A drastic increase in the number of fires in Sumatra is bringing the haze back to the peninsula.
Already, satellite imagery has shown that smoke and ash from the hot spots in Sumatra are drifting to the west coast of the peninsula.
A statement from the Department of Environment (DoE) said the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre, using satellite data downloaded from the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, revealed there were 159 hot spots in central Sumatra on Saturday, a huge jump from the 43 recorded the previous day.
“(The winds) are carrying smoke from the hot spots in central Sumatra, in particular Riau province, to the central region of the west coast of the peninsula.”
Sources within said Malaysians could expect the bad hazy conditions they suffered at the end of last month to return in the next few days.
This is especially if the number of fires continues to grow.
As it is, two spots in the central west coast region of the peninsula recorded “unhealthy” air quality readings as of 3pm yesterday.
According to the DoE statement, the Air Pollutant Index (API) for Bukit Rambai in Malacca was measured at 111, while Cheras, here, just tipped the scale at 101.
Thirty other measuring stations recorded moderate readings, with several — Malacca city (88), Port Klang (91) and Putrajaya (87) — close to unhealthy levels.
An API reading of 301 or more; very unhealthy at 201 to 300 is considered hazardous; unhealthy at 101 to 200; moderate at 51 to 100 and good at zero to 50.
The statement reminded the public that its “no open burning” warning issued last month was still in effect.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel said the country was prepared to handle the situation, adding that the dry weather in Southeast Asia was expected to continue at least until September.
“Our advice for the people is to avoid open burning.
“Although the major contribution to the haze is Indonesia, we do not need our people to aggravate the situation.”
Palanivel said the country was, as before, prepared to seed clouds if the situation took a turn for the worst, adding that the ministry had proposed that schools in areas with API readings of more than 200 be closed.
“We are also prepared to send our assistance to Indonesia to help them in overcoming the problem.”
Last month’s situation was the worst ever as API readings in various areas in the country hit hazardous levels.
An Asean forum was organised here last week in which Indonesia promised to ratify the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution brokered in 2002.
The republic is the only Asean member yet to ratify the treaty.
Bernama reported that Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) had issued the same warning asking citizens to brace themselves for the haze.
Over the next two days, said the NEA, dry weather was expected to persist in most parts of Sumatra.
“Should there be a change in the wind direction from the west, Singapore may experience hazy conditions,” it said.
Its website reported at 4pm that there were 261 hot spots in Sumatra, 173 in Riau province alone.