Malaysia wants fires put out

KUCHING: As transboundary haze from hotspots in neighbouring Kalimantan hit parts of Sarawak, the Federal Government is preparing to send a diplomatic note to Indonesia to take immediate action to put out its fires.

Deputy Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis said the note, to be sent as soon as possible, would also urge Indonesia to prevent the fires from recurring.

“We are in the final stages of drafting it,” she told reporters after attending a briefing on haze-related issues at the state Department of Environment (DOE) here yesterday.

Isnaraissah said transboundary haze was the main cause of the haze currently affecting Malaysia.

Citing data from the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC), she said satellite images detected 1,393 hotspots in Indonesia on Thursday, comprising 306 in Sumatra and 1,087 in Kalimantan.

Another 17 hotspots were detected in Malaysia, including 12 in Sarawak, two each in Johor and Pahang and one in Perak.

The ASMC activated its alert level three for Kalimantan on Thursday, noting that persistent hotspot clusters had contributed to a significant build-up of haze over the province.

It also observed that prevailing winds had blown the haze to western Sarawak.

Air quality in several areas in Sarawak deteriorated to unhealthy levels yesterday.

Sri Aman, which is close to the Sarawak-Kalimantan border, was the worst hit, recording an air pollutant index (API) reading of 180 at 1pm yesterday.

Other areas with unhealthy API levels between 101 and 200 were Miri (144), Kuching (143), Samarahan (135), Sibu (125), Sarikei (118) and Mukah (103).

Isnaraissah said Malaysia would continue to work with neighbouring countries, especially Indonesia, to tackle the transboundary haze.

She said so far Malaysia had not received a request from Indonesia to help put out fires there.

“However, during a meeting of the sub-regional ministerial steering committee on transboundary haze pollution on Aug 6, which was attended by Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand, all the countries pledged to work together to tackle the haze problem, including manpower assistance and sharing of data.

“Hopefully, with the diplomatic note and cooperation from all countries involved, the situation can be alleviated. We believe Indonesia is also doing its best to prevent the transboundary haze,” she said.

Isnaraissah also said the DOE and Sarawak’s Natural Resources and Environment Board would step up monitoring and enforcement against open burning during the current hot and dry spell, which is expected to last until October.

She said open burning offenders could be fined up to RM500,000 or jailed not more than five years, or both, if found guilty under Section 29(A) of the Environmental Quality Act.

Acting state DOE director Ahmad Saifful Salihin said the department was preparing investigation papers against two companies in Sarawak for open burning.
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Kalimantan , fire , haze , Sarawak


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