Six open burning cases being probed, says minister

Hot days: Malaysia is currently in the last phase of the northeast monsoon, which is expected to last until mid-March. — ART CHEN/The Star

PETALING JAYA: There are six investigation papers on open burning and stern action is being taken against the perpetrators, says Environment and Water Minister Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man.

He said the haze in the Klang Valley was due to the burning of peatland and forest fires spanning over 34ha of the Kuala Langat Selatan forest reserve since Feb 24.

He said as of Monday, 17 sites were burning nationwide, contributing to the high air pollutant index (API).

“Ten were forest fires and peatland burning. Seven were at waste disposal sites, ” Tuan Ibrahim said in a statement yesterday, adding that the states included Selangor, Johor, Pahang and Kelantan.

He also listed open peatland burning due to farming in Johan Setia, Klang, which was spotted on Feb 5, and bushfires in Rompin.

He said the ministry had stepped up enforcement as there were many open burning activities to clear farms during the hot season, contributing to the local haze.

As of Monday, seven areas showed poor air quality with five in Selangor, one in Kuala Lumpur and one in Rompin.

Yesterday, Johan Setia showed the highest API in the peninsula with a reading of 188 followed by Banting (167) and Rompin (133).

Petaling Jaya recorded an API of 133, Klang (107), Shah Alam (104) and Cheras (111).

“The open burning prevention action plan and standard operating procedure to implement the peatland burning prevention programme was implemented on Feb 9.

“In Johan Setia, we spotted five locations degrading the air quality there. The Department of Environment (DOE) also spotted bush fires in Rompin which increased the API.

“The DOE has opened six investigation papers and issued one compound as well as four notices.

“We are taking stern action against the landowner, waste disposal site operator and the one who was involved in the open burning, ” said Tuan Ibrahim.

Under the Environment Quality Act 1974, those convicted of open burning can be fined RM500,000, jailed for up to five years or both.

“We can also issue a maximum compound of RM2,000 on the spot, ” said Tuan Ibrahim.

According to the Meteorological Department, rainfall will be scarce nationwide, especially in northern states such as Kedah, Perlis, Penang, Pahang interiors, northern Perak, Terengganu and Kelantan.

“Those involved in industrial activities and ground works should also take heed of the situation.

“As vehicle emissions also contribute to pollution, the people should send their vehicles for inspection or use public transport during this period.

“We will not hesitate to take action under the Environment Quality Act to ensure that air pollution from local factors is kept under control, ” he said.

Meteorological Department deputy director-general (strategic and technical) Dr Mohd Hisham Mohd Anip said the lack of rainfall and open burning activities contributed to the unhealthy API, resulting in the haze.

“It definitely has a connection. We do not plant enough trees. There are too many open burning activities to clear farms, so these cause the local haze, ” he said, adding that it was not true that the cause of the pollution came from a neighbouring country.

The DOE also said that although temperatures were rising, it did not expect an uncommon occurrence this year.

“The weather seems hotter, especially at night, when there is no cover of clouds. This is a common weather phenomenon between February and April every year.

“The current hot weather in many parts of the country is expected to cool down beginning mid-April, ” it said, adding that the weather would get better by May with the start of the southwest monsoon.

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