Kuala Lumpur to discuss haze with Jakarta as parts of Malaysia affected

A man rides his bike as Malaysia's landmark Petronas Twin Towers are seen obscured by haze in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 24, 2015.
A man rides his bike as Malaysia's landmark Petronas Twin Towers are seen obscured by haze in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 24, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar will be meeting his Indonesian counterpart to discuss the issue of transboundary haze.

Parts of Malaysia, especially in Sarawak, have been affected by pollution from open burning in Indonesia.

Dr Wan Junaidi said there had been an increasing number of hotspots in Sumatra and Kalimantan, which led to recurring haze in Sarawak.

In a statement, he said the meeting would include negotiations to accelerate a memorandum of understanding on a bilateral prevention programme on transboundary haze pollution.

The Department of Environment's (DOE) director-general on Monday had also written to his counterpart in the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry to express Malaysia's concerns.

Malaysia has urged Indonesia to do more to tackle these fires.

Satellite images from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration detected 192 hotspots in Indonesia, including 22 in Kalimantan.

A single hotspot was detected in Johor and the DOE is investigating the cause.

Meanwhile, the air quality has improved in Sarawak following two afternoons of downpour.

However, satellite imagery at 10am on Tuesday showed the large number of hotspots were in West, Central and East Kalimantan provinces. Data from the Asean Specialist Meteorological Centre showed visible smoke plumes emanating from the hotspots.

The Air Pollutant Index (API) fell from unhealthy to moderate levels between Monday and Tuesday in the northern area. As at 3pm on Tuesday, the API in Kuching was 89, with visibility hovering around 2km.

API readings of between 0 and 50 indicate good air quality; 51 and 100 (moderate), 101 and 200 (unhealthy), 201 and 300 (very unhealthy) and over 301 (hazardous).

The state Natural Resources and Environment Board has banned all open burning activities until a re-evaluation is carried out pending applications for open burning.

Board controller Peter Sawal said there had been "an alarmingly large number of hotspots detected" across the border over the past few days, which caused haze to border towns like Sri Aman, Serian, Bau, as well as Kuching and Samarahan.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department is forecasting dry mornings and nights with isolated thunderstorms in the afternoons for the next week in Sarawak.

In George Town, the haze has returned, with the department's monitoring station in Bayan Lepas showing a drop in visibility levels from 7km at 8am to 4km at 11am on Tuesday.

The monitoring station in Butterworth also showed a decline in horizontal visibility, from 6km (8am) to 5km (11am).

A check on Tuesday found that Komtar and the Raja Tun Uda Ferry Terminal in George Town could not be seen from the Sultan Abdul Halim Ferry Terminal in Butterworth, while the view of the Penang Bridge and the Sultan Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah Bridge was also poor.