THE Klang Valley was choked by haze yesterday with Air Pollutant Index (API) in Port Klang reaching the “very unhealthy” level of 233 around 5pm.
According to the Envoronment Department’s official website, air quality of Banting stood at 189 and Kuala Selangor also reached the unhealthy level of around 179 in the evening, while Petaling Jaya and Shah Alam were equally hazy with API reading hovering around 159 and 150 respectively.
Over in Kuala Lumpur, Batu Muda’s API was 163. Only Cheras recorded a drop in reading from 170 at 2pm to 137 at 5pm.
Putrajaya’s API climbed up to 168 at 5pm while Nilai was at 172.
The thick haze is believed to be caused by a peat fire in Johan Setia, Klang.
While 12 firemen and two fire engines were sent to battle the
peat fire from 9am, air quality has shown no sign of improving throughout the day.
However, Malaysian Meteorological Department meteorological officer Khairul Najib Ibrahim said it was difficult to ascertain if the haze was caused mainly by the peat fire in Klang, because there were as many as 82 hotspots in peninsular Malaysia.
He said an image from the NOAA-18 Sateline taken at 4.39pm on March 12 showed a cluster of hotspots in Pahang (Rompin and Pekan), as well as in Johor (Segamat), adding that there were fewer hotspots in the Klang Valley.
“Furthermore, the wind was blowing from the northeast direction so we cannot be sure if the haze was caused by the fire in Pahang or just from the one in Klang,” he said.
He added that several hotspots were spotted in Indonesia but it was unlikely to be the cause of the haze, it is due to the wind direction.
Selangor Education, Higher Learning and Human Capital Development exco member Dr Halimah Ali issued a statement urging Selangor Education Department to close schools when the API reached unhealthy levels.
According to DOE, air quality is in an unhealthy level when API exceeds 100 and is considered “very unhealthy” when it reaches 200. It is hazardous when API is over 300.
She urged the said department to take proactive action and to work with Health Department and DOE for the health of 933,699 school-going children registered with Selangor Education Department. There are more than one million students if the pupils in private institutions are included.
State executive council member in charge of Tourism, Consumer Affairs and Environment Elizabeth Wong advised principals of schools in Port Klang to use their discretion and discuss with the state’s Education Department if they felt it was necessary to close schools as the API had exceeded 200.
“According Haze Action Plan, schools should be closed when API reaches 400 but that would be too hazardous for children. Last year, schools were advised to be closed when API reached 200,” she said.
The poor air quality also resulted in several events cancelled, among them an event organised to celebrate Heineken’s 150th anniversary.
Many people also donned masks to protect their health.
Caring Pharmacy marketing manager S. M. Seow said there had been a surge in the sale of masks since Tuesday, especially in the Klang Valley.