KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's weatherman said the haze in Malaysia is likely to persist until the end of this month because of the dry season and the possibility of uncontrolled burning of farmlands and forests in neighbouring Indonesia.
Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) director-general Jailan Simon said the transboundary haze was expected to continue until the south-west monsoon period ends late this month.
"Chances of heavy rain in Sumatra (and) Kalimantan (in) Indonesia and our country are low in the coming week. As such, the possibility of the country experiencing transboundary haze is still high, especially for the western and southern regions of the peninsula and west Sarawak," he said in a statement on Saturday.
He said the haze shrouding several areas in the country, especially on the west coast of the peninsula and west Sarawak, was due to the increase in hot spots in Sumatra and Kalimantan.
The haze, he said, would worsen if open burning in the neighbouring country was left uncontrolled.
Yesterday evening, the air pollutant index (API) levels were in the very unhealthy range in parts of Sarawak.
Kuching's API was 222 while in Samarahan it was 205, according to hourly API readings on the Department of Environment (DOE) website.
An API reading of between zero and 50 is good; 51 to 100, moderate; 101 to 200, unhealthy; 201 to 300, very unhealthy; and 301 and above is deemed hazardous.
While other areas nationwide recorded "moderate" API levels, some were close to being categorised as "unhealthy" yesterday evening.
Among others, Petaling Jaya's reading was 96 and Nilai's was 95.
In an update yesterday evening, Singapore's National Environment Agency said 333 hot spots were detected in Sumatra yesterday, an increase from the 113 hot spots detected on Saturday.
"Moderate to dense smoke haze has been observed to emanate from persistent hot spots in the Riau and Jambi provinces, and is being blown by the prevailing winds towards the Strait of Malacca," it said.
"In Sumatra, the weather is expected to remain dry. The prevailing winds are forecast to continue blowing from the south-east or south. Singapore may experience occasional slightly hazy conditions if the prevailing winds blow smoke haze from hot spots in nearby areas towards Singapore," it added.
Hundreds of hot spots have also been detected in Kalimantan. In its latest report, the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre said there were 446 hot spots in Kalimantan on Saturday, down from 780 last Friday.
Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said on Saturday that MetMalaysia was studying the feasibility of cloud seeding to induce rain in areas affected by haze.
Datuk Seri Wan Azizah also said the National Disaster Management Agency and the Sarawak government would allocate funds to provide masks to the people in the state.
She said pupils sitting the Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) in areas affected by haze in Sarawak this week will be provided with face masks. The UPSR is a nationwide exam for Primary 6 pupils. A total of 40,448 pupils are sitting the UPSR in the state. The mathematics and science papers are scheduled to be held from tomorrow to Thursday.
Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Douglas Uggah Embas said the federal government must be more assertive in calling for Indonesia to deal with open burning.
Putrajaya must consult with Jakarta on how to resolve the issue, he was quoted as saying by Bernama.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK