Reports by IMRAN HILMY, RAHIMY RAHIM, SIRA HABIBU, DIYANA PFORDTEN and ILI AQILAH
PETALING JAYA: The Department of Environment (DOE) will deploy drones to monitor fire-prone areas as Malaysia prepares to face a hot and dry season, especially in northern peninsular Malaysia, in the months ahead. Fifteen drones will be deployed in 15 areas in Perlis, Kedah, Penang, Perak, Kuala Lumpur, Negri Sembilan, Pasir Gudang in Johor, Kota Baru and Gua Musang in Kelantan, Terengganu, Kota Kinabalu and Labuan in Sabah, Pahang, Miri in Sarawak and Selangor.
The drones, it said, had been deployed since 2018.
The department said it would also increase enforcement and monitoring activities across the country to avoid incidents of open burning.
The Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry (Mestecc) also announced that it had activated the National Open Burning Action Plan since Jan 7.
It said it would actively monitor the air quality through 65 DOE Automated Air Quality Monitoring stations while weather observation and forecast by the Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) would be carried out.
“Strict action will be taken against irresponsible parties found to have caused open burning, including landowners, ” it said, warning that it would be intensifying its enforcement measures, such as legal action and the issuance of compounds under Section 29(A) of the Environmental Quality Act 1974.
“Those convicted can be fined up to RM500,000 or jailed up to five years or both, ” it said, warning landowners to closely monitor their plots, especially those located in fire-prone areas including peatland, agricultural land, plantation, construction sites, bushes, industrial areas and landfills.
“The landowners are also required to take steps to prevent encroachment by irresponsible parties causing open burning, ” it added.
MetMalaysia said most states in the peninsula were expected to experience dry weather as the country entered the second phase of the north-east monsoon, with temperatures likely to rise to around 33°C or 34°C.
“The dry weather is affecting the northern states of the peninsula such as Perlis, Kedah, Penang and northern Perak, ” said its deputy director-general (Operations) Muhammad Helmi Abdullah.
The hottest months, he said, would be from late March until April but dismissed any notion of extreme hot weather.
“At this moment, there is no indication of any extreme rise in temperature or heatwave. Normally, heatwave will affect parts of the country if an El Nino phenomenon is present, ” he said.
Perlis and the northern part of Kedah as well as Langkawi can expect low rainfall of below 50mm this month.
Penang and Hulu Perak (Lenggong) are also expected to experience below average rainfall of between 50mm and 100mm.
Other areas such as Kedah, parts of Perak, Negri Sembilan and Melaka will receive an average rainfall of between 50mm and 200mm.
For Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, it will experience rainfall of between 150mm and 250mm.
Fire and Rescue Services Department air division director Nazili Mahmood said besides mobilising aircraft for aerial spraying of water, bulldozers would be deployed to create a fire break in case of bushfires.
“We have a fleet of six aircraft that can be immediately deployed to control fire from spreading.
“In the event of a large-scale
disaster, the National Disaster Management Agency will come into the picture to mobilise all the existing assets belonging to various agencies, ” he said when asked to comment on the department’s state of preparedness in the event of massive bushfires like those in Australia.