Kuching API levels reach unhealthy levels

KUCHING: The haze across southern Sarawak worsen overnight mid this week. On Malaysia Day, the air pollution index (API) here was around 80, but by Wednesday noon, it reached 119.

State authorities are blaming the smog on the 219 hotspots detected in southern Kalimantan. However, there were also five hotspots detected within Sarawak.

Assistant Environment Minister Datuk Len Talif Salleh said two hotspots were identified in Samarahan, two in Sarikei and one in Sri Aman.

“We have absolutely not issued any open burning permits. Our officers have been dispatched to carry out on-the-ground assessments at the hotspots,” Talif told The Star. Asked about the possibility of large scale commercial burning, he said these hotspots were unlikely to be from oil palm plantations.

“We are not sure yet but based on the coordinates, one of the hotspots is near a plantation in Samarahan, but not within it. Another hotspot in Sarikei is near a longhouse. The haze you see now is from the wind blown from south east Kalimantan. We know this clearly because at Tebedu (a border town between Sarawak and Indonesia) the API reading is about 150.”

The highest API readings nationwide yesterday were all in Sarawak.

At Samarahan, a suburb near Kuching, the reading was 123, in Sri Aman it was 104. Readings between 101 and 200 fall within the “unhealthy” range, while readings between 51 and 100 are considerate “moderate”.  The air quality in Sibu, which is in the middle of the state, was 66.

Less affected areas in Sarawak were all in the north. In Miri, where Malaysia Day celebrations were held, the API was only 49, at Limbang it was 26.  

Since mid this year, open burning permits from the Natural Resources and Environment Board have stopped being issued. Sarawak has been experiencing less rainfall this year, leading to dry taps in several villages about 100km from Kuching in July.

According to the latest monthly weather bulletin available, most areas  received 20% below the average of rainfall in June.

“Malaysia in generally still experiencing phase of Southwest Monsoon, which is characterized by surface winds that blow regularly from the west, and also relatively drier condition than the other seasons,” said the bulletin from the Malaysian Meteorological Department.

“This situation will result in most areas across the country will have more days without rain compare to rainy day, and in turn will lead to drier weather conditions,” it added.
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Sarawak , haze , API , unhealthy


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