KUALA LUMPUR - The haze in Malaysia is likely to persist until the end of this month due to the low chances of heavy rains and the possibility of uncontrolled open burning in neighbouring Indonesia, The Star reported.
Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) director-general Jailan Simon said the transboundary haze was expected to continue until the southwest monsoon period ends in late September.
"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 (Sept 7).
He said the haze shrouding several areas in the country, especially in the west coast of the peninsula and west Sarawak, was due to the increase in hotspots in Sumatra and Kalimantan.
The haze, he said, would worsen if open burning in the neighbouring country was left uncontrolled.
Parts of Sarawak recorded very unhealthy levels of air pollution on Sunday (Sept 8). The state's capital Kuching and the towns of Samarahan and Sri Aman recorded readings of between 201 to 242 as of 12 noon.
Kuching and Samarahan are located very near the Kalimantan border where there are more than 1,000 hotspots burning out of control.
An API reading of between 0 and 50 is good; 51 to 100 (moderate); 101 to 200 (unhealthy); 201 to 300 (very unhealthy); and 301 and above is deemed hazardous.
Meanwhile, several areas in the state saw unhealthy levels, including Sarikei, Miri, Sibu, and Mukah.
In Peninsular Malaysia, the Johan Setia area in Klang also saw unhealthy air pollution levels on Sunday, while Putrajaya, Shah Alam, Klang and Petaling Jaya were nearing the unhealthy threshold with API readings of between 90-99, Bernama reported.
Hourly API readings are available on the Department of Environment (DOE) website at http://apims.doe.gov.my.
Data from the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC) showed five hotspots in Peninsular Malaysia and another five across the South China Sea last Friday.
The hotspot count on that day also showed that Kalimantan recorded 780 hotspots while Sumatra had 66.
An update by ASMC on Friday said generally dry conditions were expected to prevail in the southern Asean region.
"With the weather likely to remain generally dry over the next few days, the hotspot and haze situation in Sumatra and Kalimantan can be expected to persist," the update said.
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 (Nadma) and the Sarawak government would allocate funds to provide masks to the people in the state.
The Education Ministry said on Sunday it is monitoring the haze situation closely and paying close attention to the health issues of students currently sitting for the Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) examination. The UPSR is a nationwide exam for Primary 6 pupils.
A total of 40,448 students are sitting for the UPSR in the state. The Mathematics and Science papers are scheduled for Sept 10 to 12.
Dr Wan Azizah had said on Saturday that students sitting for the UPSR exams in areas affected by the haze in Sarawak next week will be provided with face masks.
Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas has said the Federal Government must be more assertive in calling for Indonesia to deal with open burning and that Putrajaya must consult with Jakarta on how to resolve the issue, Bernama reported.