PUTRAJAYA: With the authorities already recording a drop in air quality this week, Malaysians will have to remain on the alert as the current hot and dry weather is expected to continue right through August.
Department of Environment Director-General Rosnani Ibrahim said open burning in Sumatra was the main culprit for the deteriorating air quality.
The Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre, she said, had spotted at least 49 hot spots and smoke plumes in the island, believed to be signs of forest fires.
And the situation has left the department worried because the south-westerly winds characterising the present weather pattern are blowing pollutants from Sumatra over to Peninsular Malaysia.
“The department has detected a deterioration in the air quality in several areas along the west coast of the peninsula from Muar up to Prai, especially in the Klang Valley.
“We will send our officers to meet the Indonesian authorities to discuss how this problem can be mitigated,” Rosnani said yesterday.
The director-general noted that although the source of the problem was 60% foreign, local activities also contributed to it.
“As such, we have also activated our action plan on the prevention of open burning, and the frequency of the department’s land and air surveillance has also been increased so that any open burning can be detected and put out immediately,” she said.
She urged the public and other agencies to be more vigilant and to help prevent the situation from deteriorating further.
She said the most critical areas that needed to be monitored closely were peat swamps, garbage disposal sites and places along highways because any fire in these areas could last for a long time.
Meteorological Department director of environment Leong Chow Peng also warned that people in the peninsula would not get a respite from the present hot weather this week as the earliest rainfall was not expected until the end of next week.