Open burning cases up by 102%

PETALING JAYA: The total number of open burning cases in Malaysia has doubled from last year with a whopping 10,638 cases recorded in the first quarter of 2024, according to the Fire and Rescue Department.

The statistics showed that the number of open burning cases had increased by 102.1% as of April, compared with a total of 5,262 cases last year.

It also revealed that open burning cases involving bushes totalled 8,568 so far this year, compared with a total of 4,545 cases in 2023. This was followed by forest fires (1,513 cases) and plantations (557 cases).

ALSO READ: Incoming southwest monsoon could trigger forest fires

The department also identified a total of 748 locations across 88 districts with open burning cases between January and April this year, covering a total area of over 10,200ha.

Overall, it said Sabah had the most open burning cases so far this year, followed by Kedah, Johor, Kelantan and Terengganu.

The data also showed that open burning cases were recorded at 10 locations nationwide involving landfills managed by local councils and municipalities covering 43.27ha.

Its director-general Datuk Nor Hisham Mohammad said the department will be working together with the Environment Department to increase enforcement to prevent open burning nationwide.

“The department is prepared to handle the impact of the southwest monsoon with the involvement of officers and logistics that include the department’s air wing.“The department will also continuously work closely with the Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) to identify more high-risk locations with the help of the Malaysian Space Agency (MySA),” he said when contacted.

ALSO READ: MetMalaysia: Southwest monsoon to start on May 17, with drier weather expected

In May last year, the department identified a total of 406 hotspots in the country via satellite, during which Malaysia recorded a maximum temperature of between 35°C and 37°C.

This year, the department had put out major forest fires which engulfed a total area of 284ha in Gebeng in Kuantan, Muadzam Shah in Rompin, Pahang, and in Putrajaya.

Consultant respiratory medicine, sleep physician and physician Dr Tan Wang Jie said the dry weather could cause multiple health-related issues including dry eyes and sinus, as well as respiratory and skin conditions.

“Dry air can cause nosebleeds and worsen bronchitis and asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) if the patient suffers from it. It can worsen dermatitis too.

“If haze occurs, it may increase respiratory-related diseases like bronchitis, breathlessness and sore throat; dry weather itself could increase risk of viral transmission, according to a study.

ALSO READ: Low rainfall expected from mid-May following Southwest Monsoon, says Nik Nazmi

“Long-term vaccination is recommended for those with chronic heart, lung or liver problem. Those who are over 65 years old should get their annual influenza and pneumococcal vaccines in the form of PCV13 or PPSV23,” said Dr Tan from Bagan Specialist Centre in Butterworth, Penang.

He urged people to drink plenty of water, apply moisturiser, use eye drops, and avoid getting cracked lips by using a balm.

Having a humidifier at home would also help, Dr Tan added.

Yesterday, the National Disaster Management Committee announced that the incoming southwest monsoon could increase the risk of forest fires due to the lack of rain.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also the committee’s chairman, said with the incoming change in weather, many states would face negative effects from more rainless days.

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