PUTRAJAYA: The Government will take tougher measures to contain open burning and outbreaks of forest fires the next time the country faced a long dry spell.
Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk S. Sothinathan said that previously the Department of Environment only took drastic measures to tackle open burning when the air pollution index registered unhealthy levels.
“We decided today that at certain times of the year, especially when there was a prolonged drought or dry spell, we would start acting even when the air quality index registered moderate levels.
“We need to take preventative measures immediately to ensure that air quality does not worsen like what happened last weekend,” he told reporters after chairing the National Haze Committee meeting here yesterday.
Some of the preventative measures, he said, might include ban on open burning and stricter monitoring of peat swamps and other sensitive areas.
“Previously, some forms of open burning were allowed in the agricultural sector like the burning of paddy stalks or open burning to control disease in farms no bigger than 2ha.
“If need be, we may also ban these. This is necessary because most of the recent forest fires were found to have been caused by human activities,'' he said, adding that there were 15 minor hot spots in the northern part of the peninsula yesterday.
Sothinathan also said the country was not out of the dry spell yet.
“The Meteorological Services Department has forecast rain over the next few days, particularly in Selangor, Penang, Perak, west Johor and Kedah. However, the country is still in the north-eastern monsoon period and we will have drier weather and lesser rain,” he said.
Meanwhile, the air quality in most parts of the Klang Valley was back to healthy levels yesterday. Visibility was also at normal levels of above 10km.
Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting said 8,575.2ha of the 8,667.2ha of land on fire in three states had been put out.
“Only 1.07% or 92ha was still burning as of yesterday. In Selangor, the state worst hit by the fires, fire on 99% of 7,805.2ha land in Ulu Tinggi and Batang Berjuntai had been doused while fire on 75% of the 24ha land at Lobok Bakul in Pagoh, Muar has been doused,” he said, adding that 86% of the 58ha land on fire in Grik had been put out.
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