ABSOLUTELY no fireworks are allowed this Chinese New Year at Penang Hill areas.
With the weather so dry and the undergrowth turning yellow, a stray spark from a flare or roman candle is enough to start the dreaded forest fires on the hill range.
Penang Hill Corporation, in a statement, said the public are urged not to play with fireworks during the Chinese New Year at any time to prevent forest fires.
“We advise everyone that firecrackers and fireworks are strictly prohibited on the hill at any given time to prevent forest fires.
“We seek your cooperation to ensure that Penang Hill is safe for all to enjoy,” the corporation said.
In February and March, 2014, which was a particularly dry year, forest fires ravaged the Penang Hill range for nearly a month.
The fire spread to the remotest slopes that were almost impossible for firemen to reach.
Bombardier planes from Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency had to be deployed to scoop seawater – 6,000 liters each time – to dump over the fire, but the salty water created another problem of being harmful to plants.
At least 10 fires broke out on the hill range during that season and the largest recorded one was estimated to be at least 4,000sq m.
Recently, the Department of Environment (DOE) reported a threefold increase in open burning cases in Penang.
In 2017, there were 240 reported cases of open burning. The number has been increasing annually. Last year, there were 705 reports.
This means that open burning has nearly tripled in the state within the past four years.
The department said that Malaysia normally experiences a hot and dry spell from the middle of January to March due to the second phase of the north-east monsoon.
This year’s Chinese New Year is expected to be hot during the period of celebration in Penang with no rain expected until the end of March.
State police chief Comm Datuk Mohd Shuhaily Mohd Zain called on the public, especially those who will be celebrating Chinese New Year, to abide by the government ruling to disallow fireworks and firecrackers.
“The government has not allowed the public to play with fireworks and firecrackers during Chinese New Year celebration this year.
“I take this opportunity to advise the public to respect the government’s decision,” he said after his visit at the Jalan Perak temporary hawker centre (TPS) in a walkabout programme yesterday.
Comm Mohd Shuhaily said he appreciated the state government’s decision not to organise an open house this year and described it as a good gesture of complying with standard operating procedures to prevent Covid-19 outbreaks.
Visits are allowed during Chinese New Year but he reminded the public not to let their guard down and to strictly adhere to Covid-19 precautions at all times.
After the walkabout, he launched the state-level Ops Selamat by flagging off motorcycle and patrol car units.
George Town OCPD Asst Comm Soffian Santong advised motorists not to park their vehicles haphazardly and cause traffic jams during the festive period, especially near popular food outlets.
He said police would be stationed at strategic locations in George Town to monitor and control the traffic flow.