Malaysia to send diplomatic note to Indonesia over haze

KUCHING (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia will send a diplomatic note to Indonesia to take immediate action on putting out fires which are causing haze in the region.

Deputy Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis said the note would also urge Indonesia to prevent the fires from recurring.

“It will be sent as quickly as possible. We are in the final stages of drafting it, ” she told reporters after attending a briefing on haze-related issues at the state Department of Environment (DOE) here in Kuching on Friday (Sept 6).

Ms Isnaraissah said transboundary haze was the main cause of the haze engulfing Malaysia currently.

Based on the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre's report on Thursday (Sept 5), she said satellite images detected 1,393 hotspots in Indonesia, comprising 306 in Sumatra and 1,087 in Kalimantan.

Another 17 hotspots were detected in Malaysia, including 12 in Sarawak, two each in Johor and Pahang, and one in Perak.

Several areas in Sarawak have recorded unhealthy air pollutant index (API) levels of between 101 and 200 since early Friday morning.

At noon, the API in Sri Aman was 176, Miri 142, Kuching 140, Samarahan 132, Sibu 124, Sarikei 115 and Mukah 102.

The visibility in Kuching has also been reduced to about 1.2km as a result of the haze.

An API of between 0 and 50 is classified as good, 51 to 100 moderate, 101 to 200 unhealthy, 201 to 300 very unhealthy while 300 and above is hazardous.

Ms Isnaraissah said Malaysia would continue to work with neighbouring countries, especially Indonesia, to tackle transboundary haze.

She said so far Malaysia had not received a request from Indonesia to help put out fires there.

“However, during a meeting of the sub-regional ministerial working committee on transboundary haze pollution on Aug 6, which was attended by Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand, all the countries pledged to work together to tackle the haze problem.

“Hopefully, with our action of sending the diplomatic note and cooperation from all countries involved, the situation can be alleviated, ” she said.

Ms Isnaraissah also said the DOE and Sarawak's Natural Resources and Environment Board would step up monitoring and enforcement against open burning during the current hot and dry spell, which is expected to last until October.

She said open burning offenders could be fined up to RM500,000 (S$165,661) or jailed not more than five years or both if found guilty under Section 29(A) of the Environmental Quality Act.

Acting state DOE director Ahmad Saifful Salihin said his department was preparing investigation papers against two companies in Sarawak for open burning.