KUCHING • Malaysia's environment minister said he will meet his Indonesian counterpart next week to discuss measures to tackle transboundary haze, as worsening air quality forced some schools in Sarawak to close yesterday.
At least two flights were cancelled and another six delayed at the Kuching International Airport in Sarawak, the state worst hit by the haze yesterday, according to Bernama.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the meeting in Jakarta next Friday will focus on collaboration between Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Thailand to battle the haze.
"I will discuss what sort of collaboration we can have," he said on Wednesday. "One area is how we can help Indonesia to put out fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra."
He also expressed hope that Indonesia would take steps to prevent forest fires from occurring, such as by installing tube wells in peat soil areas as Malaysia had done.
"The tube wells will be activated in the dry season to moisten peat soil so that it is less flammable. When peat soil is dry, it becomes very flammable and the fire is difficult to put out," he said.
Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi's call came as Indonesia's House of Representatives yesterday urged the government to review next year's state budget to get extra funds, up to 10 trillion rupiah (S$1 billion), in order to combat forest fires.
House member Herman Khaeron said the state budget for the Environment and Forestry Ministry was quite insignificant - 6.7 trillion rupiah this year and 6.3 trillion rupiah next year.
While schools in haze-hit states in Peninsular Malaysia have reopened, those in Kuching and Samarahan divisions in Sarawak were told to close yesterday as air quality hovered near the very unhealthy level.
Samarahan had the highest Air Pollutant Index (API) reading of 205 at about 3pm before dipping to 185 last night. Kuching also saw an improvement in air quality with a reading of 175 at 8pm, down from 203 at about 1pm, according to Malaysia's Department of Environment.
Beyond Sarawak, many parts of Malaysia recorded moderate air quality. Air quality with API readings of zero to 50 is categorised as good, 51 to 100 moderate, 101 to 200 unhealthy, 201 to 300 very unhealthy, and 301 and above hazardous.
THE STAR, THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK