Cloud seeding brings rain but haze persists across Malaysia

Hazy conditions in the administrative capital Putrajaya at around 11.30am yesterday. A total of 25 schools in the city are expected to shut today. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Hazy conditions in the administrative capital Putrajaya at around 11.30am yesterday. A total of 25 schools in the city are expected to shut today. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Torrential rain fell on Kuala Lumpur yesterday after cloud seeding efforts bore fruit in the central states of Peninsular Malaysia following days of delays due to unsuitable conditions.

The Meteorological Department said it was able to seed clouds over Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Melaka with the cooperation of the National Disaster Management Agency and air force.

The nearly three-hour operation was "fruitful" as rain was reported over several targeted districts, although "not as encompassing as expected".

Hazy conditions persisted across the country, however, especially over Sarawak and the Klang Valley.

In Selangor, classes were cancelled for today at 138 schools as Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari warned that the state would seize land from farmers who continued with open burning.

He said such stern action was required as farmers in Johan Setia, an area in the Klang district, continued to burn openly, despite a state government directive to cease the practice. No arrests have been made so far, as the farmers started the fires at night or early in the morning.

"When we went to such locations, the land owners were not there and we did not know their whereabouts. But we had to put out the fires before looking for offenders," Mr Amirudin said.

About 500 schools in Sarawak are expected to close today due to the haze, as the Air Pollution Index (API) readings in Kuching, Samarahan and Sri Aman exceeded 200, which the Department of Environment considers "very unhealthy".

Most of the rest of the state - just north of Kalimantan, Indonesia, where hundreds of fires are raging - was blanketed with "unhealthy" smoke.

 
 
 
 

The air over Putrajaya was also very unhealthy yesterday and 25 schools in the administrative capital are expected to shut today.

However, the situation has improved in Johor, with schools that closed on Sunday expected to reopen today. But state education department director Azman Adnan said schools in districts with API readings of over 100 would have to postpone all outdoor activities, in line with Education Ministry instructions.

Last Saturday, more than 300 schools and kindergartens in Muar, Tangkak and Pontian were told to remain shut until further notice due to unhealthy API readings.

Despite some flight cancellations last Friday, Mr Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik, Deputy Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture, said travellers were not deterred.

"The haze is something felt by all other Asean countries. This is an unavoidable phenomenon. In fact, Singapore, too, cannot avoid it. But not all parts of Malaysia are affected by the haze. I was just back from Langkawi and Penang, these areas are not affected by the haze," he said yesterday.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2019, with the headline 'Cloud seeding brings rain but haze persists across Malaysia'. Print Edition | Subscribe