MIRI: Cloud seeding operations, to induce rain to clear the transboundary haze from Kalimantan, has burnt a hole in the Sarawak state government's pocket.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam, who is state Disaster Relief Committee chairman, told reporters on Saturday that daily flights had to be made to search for rain clouds.
"Each trip costs at least RM50,000. Every day we had to conduct several trips to find rain-bearing clouds in the sky.
"If for the past 10 days, we had to fly twice a day, imagine the costs we have to incur.
"It is not easy. Those in the aircraft have to fly around a lot just to find enough clouds with rain.
"If the cloud is too dry, the cloud-seeding would not produce any rain. It is very costly and difficult," he said.
Dr Chan hoped that Asean would resolve the haze problem.
"Sarawak is always the worst-hit every time the haze comes around.
"The state government has already ensured that open-burning be drastically reduced, but there is nothing we can do about the haze from Kalimantan because we do not have the jurisdiction to deal with the Indonesian Government.
"This issue is a federal issue. Only the Federal Government in Kuala Lumpur can negotiate with the Indonesian Government to resolve this issue," he told reporters at his office here.
Dr Chan said he was glad that cloud-seeding operations had been successful to a large extent and the worst of the haze might be over.
"The wind direction is expected to change soon. We are still in the intermonsoon phase. Once this is over, we will not have to worry about any more severe haze," he hoped.
As for the situation in Kalimantan, Dr Chan said more than 600 hotspots were detected on Friday, but the situation has improved.