PETALING JAYA: Malaysia should ask Indonesia to do more to put out fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra which are contributing to the haze that has reached high levels in Sarawak, says a climate expert.
Universiti Malaya climate expert Prof Datuk Dr Azizan Abu Samah said there was strong evidence that fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra were the major contributor of haze in this country.
“We have an Asean level transboundary haze agreement which Indonesia is part of. So, we should engage Indonesia as it is the main source of our haze,” said Prof Azizan amid worsening air quality, especially in Sarawak.
In Miri, the Air Pollutant Index (API) broke past the 200 point and hit 228 as at 1pm on Saturday.
As at 3pm yesterday, Miri’s air quality remained unhealthy with an API of 129.
Air quality is classified as good when the API is 50 and below, and moderate when the API reading is between 51 and 100.
An API of between 101 and 200 means the air quality is considered unhealthy.
A reading of 201-300 means that the air quality is very unhealthy and an API of more than 300 is hazardous.
Air quality in other parts of the state was moderate but several had API readings nearing 100, including Kuching (95), Mukah (89) and Sarikei (86).
Temperatures in several parts of Malaysia have been rising due to the current southwest monsoon, which started in the third week of May. The hot and dry weather during this time contributes to the spread of forest fires and open burning, which causes the haze.
On Aug 13, the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC) activated a Level 2 haze alert for the Southern Asean region.
Level 2 means that there are over 150 hotspots in two consecutive days with dense smoke plumes, with dry weather persisting and prevailing winds blowing towards Asean countries.
Dry weather, said the ASMC, had led to deterioration of the situation in Sumatra and Kalimantan.
“In West Kalimantan, moderate to dense smoke haze from persistent hotspots has been observed and the prevailing winds could blow the haze toward western Sarawak,” the ASMC said.
An interactive map – accessible at nullschool.net, which provides a visualisation of global weather conditions – shows a high concentration of particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5) over the hotspots in Kalimantan and Sumatra.
The map’s PM2.5 readings are sourced from, among others, the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service and European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts.
Prof Azizan said PM2.5 was more dangerous compared to the bigger PM10 particulate matter that some air quality measurements were based on.
“This is because PM2.5 particulate is smaller in size and is easily absorbed into the respiratory system causing harm,” he said.
Since Aug 16, the Department of Environment had improved its API measurements by measuring PM2.5 particulate compared to PM10 previously.
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