KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The plan taken by the Indonesian government to combat haze has been deemed as taking too long before its effectiveness is proven.
Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Sunday (Oct 4) that while the Malaysian government welcomed the move, stronger commitment and measures were needed, as the results of the plan would take three years.
"We face this problem every year. There's always open burning.
"While we are grateful that the Indonesian government is doing what they can to solve the issue, we think the plan takes too long for us to see the effectiveness," he said at the launch of U-turn, a talkshow by TV Alhijrah and the Home Ministry.
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid cited additional medical expenses have to be borne by Malaysians every year due to the haze.
"We already spent too much on medical expenses, especially for those with respiratory problems.
"There are measures being taken but so far, it's not enough," he said.
He said legal action against companies responsible for carrying out activities that contributed to forest burning was also included in the measures taken by both countries to fight the haze.
He said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tunku Jaafar had also discussed with the Indonesian government steps that needed to be taken to overcome the problem.
Last Tuesday, the BBC reported Indonesian President Joko Widodo as saying that said he needed time to tackle the forest burning, and that his citizens were also victims of the haze that is affecting the region.
In the report, Mr Joko said it would take three years for results to be seen from efforts to end the huge annual fires, as it is "not a problem that you can solve quickly".
It was also reported that more than 3,700 soldiers, nearly 8,000 police officers and four water-bombing planes in Indonesia have been deployed to put out the fires.
The haze situation in Malaysian continued to worsen on Sunday, with air quality in Shah Alam at a hazardous level.
As of 9am, the Air Pollutant Index (API) reading was 308, compared with 299 an hour earlier, according to the Malaysian Department of the Environment's website on Sunday.
Five areas recorded very unhealthy air quality - Batu Muda (271), Petaling Jaya (256), Banting (249), Port Klang (243) and Putrajaya (235).
Among the areas with unhealthy air quality were Seremban (200), Cheras (184), Kuala Selangor (171), SK Jalan Pegoh, Ipoh (175) and Seberang Jaya 2 (166).
Fourteen areas recorded moderate API readings.
They include Kota Tinggi, Pasir Gudang, Tanjung Malim, Kangar, Tawau, Kuching, Samarahan and Sri Aman.
The worsening haze had also forced the closure of three airport runways on Sunday.
The affected airports were Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang, Sultan Abdul Halim Airport in Alor Setar and Sultan Azlan Shah Airport in Ipoh.
Though the three airports have since reopened, Malaysia Airports Berhad (MAB) said in a Facebook posting on Sunday that "all passengers travelling today are advised to check with their respective airlines on their flight schedules".
In a series of tweets earlier, MAB said visibility fell to 350m at the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport as of 6.35am.
MAB also said that visibility was at 500m for both Sultan Abdul Halim Airport and Sultan Azlan Shah Airport as of 7.20am and 7.30am respectively.
It said, however, that operations were running as usual at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2).
"Visibility at KLIA and KLIA2 was reported at 1,000m as of 8am this morning. Airport operations are currently running as usual.
"However, all passengers are advised to check with the respective airlines on their flight schedules," it added.