KUCHING: Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar will meet his Indonesian counterpart in Jakarta next week to discuss measures to tackle transboundary haze.
He said the meeting would include talks on a memorandum of understanding by Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Thailand on action to be taken during the occurrence of haze.
“I will discuss what sort of collaboration we can have during the meeting on Sept 25. One area is how we can help Indonesia to put out fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra.
“We realise there are certain obstacles in Indonesia regarding our ability to give assistance. Under Indonesia’s federalism, a province has to declare an emergency before the central government can step in to help. Only then can other countries give help, because our agreement is with the central government,” he told reporters here yesterday.
As such, he said he would discuss the matter of reducing red tape between the central government and provinces so that other countries could provide aid quickly.
“We have the capability and expertise to help through the Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (SMART) and the Fire and Rescue Department,” he said.
Dr Wan Junaidi also hoped that Indonesia would take steps to prevent forest fires from occurring, such as by installing tube wells in peat soil areas as Malaysia had done.
“The tube wells will be activated in the dry season to moisten peat soil so that it is less flammable. When peat soil is dry, it becomes very flammable and the fire is difficult to put out,” he said.
More than half of Sarawak was blanketed in thick haze yesterday, with six areas experiencing unhealthy air quality.
At 3pm, the air pollutant index (API) was 151 in Kuching, 150 in Samarahan and 157 in Sri Aman in southern Sarawak. In the central region it was 139 in Sarikei, 131 in Sibu and 120 in Kapit.
Compared with the same time a day ago, almost all the 10 monitoring stations in the state recorded worsening air quality.
The Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre said many areas in Kalimantan were still affected by widespread smoke haze and persistent land fires.
In Pontianak, the closest city to Kuching, the API was reportedly 806 at 1pm.
Satellite images from the Singapore-based centre showed there could still be hundreds of hotspots in Kalimantan.
On Tuesday, the NOAA-18 satellite detected 231 hotspots while the AQUA satellite picked up 518 hotspots.
Both Kalimantan and Sumatra have been at alert level three, which is the most severe, since the start of the month.
According to the Meteorological Department, the dry weather is expected to persist.
In its seasonal report, it forecast 20% to 40% less rain this month in Sarawak compared with the long-term average.
“The moderate El Nino currently experienced is expected to intensify and it may continue until early 2016 with a probability of over 90%,” said a weather outlook until February 2016.