KUCHING: An integrated action plan and enforcement on open burning, involving all relevant agencies, is in place to combat haze in Sarawak.
Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Len Talif Salleh said all relevant enforcement agencies would be required to conduct strict monitoring on peat fires and illegal open burning activities across the state.
The plan entails the building of watchtowers in strategic locations, as well as check dams and tube wells to aid fire-fighting operations.
This is in addition to the water bombing and cloud-seeding methods.
“Transboundary haze, peat fires and open burning activities had led to haze problem in the state. Between February and March this year, peat fires in areas up to 1,888ha in Kuala Baram had caused haze in Miri, with the air pollutant index (API) readings reaching a hazardous level of 321 on Feb 22.
“The government is seriously looking to manage the state’s haze issue,” he said during a question and answer session at the state legislative assembly sitting here.
Len Talif was responding to Datuk Sebastian Ting (BN-Piasau) who enquired whether the government has any urgent policies and action plan to prevent haze, which was an annual problem in Miri.
The assemblyman added that the state had temporarily frozen open burning permits during the dry season in addition to carrying out stricter monitoring on illegal open burning activities.
“More signage to prevent open burning in fire-prone areas were erected to raise public awareness. We also sought the help from the local communities to report any illegal open burning activities to the Natural Resources and Environment Board.
“We also received cooperation from the armed forces to carry out patrols in areas vulnerable to fire in Kuala Baram during the haze period,” he added.
Len Talif added that companies with undeveloped land bank must prepare a standard operating procedure for prevention and suppression of peat fire.
Meanwhile, Science Research and Biotechnology Assistant Minister Dr Annuar Rapa’ee said the state government had launched several initiatives to drive research in various sectors such as agriculture, natural products and crops that would enhance development of biotech-based products.
The state has several research institutes and agencies to harness local indigenous biological resources such as food-crops, useful plants and microbes to be researched and developed using biotechnology to produce enhanced biotech-based products.
Others included the incorporation of new growth areas in Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE), with one of the focus being in biotechnology to support the state’s bioindustry as well as the development of agriculture and agro-biotech in the hinterlands.
Dr Annuar said Mukah Science Park would be playing a key role in providing the infrastructure to establish biotech related research to develop products from industries such as palm oil, timber, sago, aquaculture, food and non-food products for the halal market, healthcare and herbal natural products.
The state would also collaborate with research-oriented institutions of higher learning.
“Curtin University is setting up a BioValley Park in Miri developed in partnership with the Industrial and Entrepreneur Development, Trade and Investment Ministry.
“The park, costing RM50mil, will include facilities for generation of higher value-added products through pilot-scale production, product analysis, quality assurance and routine testing,” he said.
Dr Annuar was responding to a question raised by Aidel Lariwoo (BN-Sadong Jaya).