PETALING JAYA: Malaysia has called upon Indonesia to immediately extinguish and prevent further land and forest fires in Central Sumatra that are responsible for the transboundary haze since Sunday, says Environment and Natural Resources Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel.
In a statement yesterday, he said the country expressed its concern over the increase in the number of hotspots in Indonesia, in a letter written by the Department of Environment (DOE) director-general Datuk Halimah Hassan to her Indonesian counterpart.
“The Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre reported that 143 hotspots were detected by the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s satellites over Sumatra on Tuesday, compared with 129 hotspots a day earlier,” said Palanivel.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, via his official Twitter account, urged Malaysians to stay hydrated, remain indoors, as well as to avoid strenuous outdoor activities.
Meanwhile, 25 local hotspots have been identified in Pahang (12), Johor (four), Sarawak (three) and one each in Kedah, Kelantan, Malacca, Selangor and Penang.
Earlier yesterday, several areas in Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Kuala Lumpur recorded unhealthy Air Pollutant Index readings, with Banting, Kuala Selangor, Port Klang, Petaling Jaya and Shah Alam reaching unhealthy levels in the morning.
Similar readings were recorded for Batu Muda and Cheras in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, as well as Nilai in Negri Sembilan.
As of 8am, Putrajaya, Banting and Port Klang had API readings of 113, 109 and 108 respectively, but the areas recorded good and moderate readings after 1pm.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said government clinics and hospitals were prepared to ensure patients got the best treatment.
He said the ministry, through the state health departments, were also monitoring haze-related illnesses such as upper respiratory tract infections and asthma at selected clinics nationwide.
Subramaniam said, based on the National Haze Action Plan, schools in areas with API readings above 200 for 48 hours can close, while schools were also advised to stop outdoor activities if the API went above 150.
An API reading between 0 and 50 is considered good; 51 to 100, moderate; 101 to 200, unhealthy; 201 to 300, very unhealthy; and anything above that, hazardous.
In Jakarta, Indonesia’s disaster agency warned that haze could return to Singapore and Malaysia after a huge jump in forest fires in Riau at the centre of a smog crisis last year, AFP reported.
Fires in Riau on western Sumatra island caused the worst outbreak of haze in Southeast Asia for more than a decade in June last year, affecting daily life for millions and sparking a diplomatic row.
June is the start of the forest fire season — when slash-and-burn techniques are used to clear land quickly and cheaply, often for palm oil plantations — and disaster officials said the number of blazes in Riau was rising quickly.
Penang to become hotter and hazier