Malaysia ready to induce rain in effort to ease haze

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia is preparing to seed clouds after air quality in parts of the country fell to unhealthy levels because of haze from forest fires, an official said yesterday.

The pollutant index in some places has reached "very unhealthy levels", said Mr Gary Theseira, special functions officer with the Environment Ministry. "It is extremely severe in Kuching," he added, referring to a city of half a million people.

He said Malaysia is prepared to carry out cloud seeding to induce rain in an effort to ease the haze, according to Agence France-Presse. "The moment the cloud situation is right, the chemicals will be loaded and the aircraft will take off and proceed with the seeding," he said.

In the latest outbreak of haze in South-east Asia, parts of Malaysia's eastern state of Sarawak on Borneo island have been blanketed over the past few days.

The Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation last Friday said it would lodge a complaint with Indonesia over the haze, and called for quick action to be taken.

But Indonesia's meteorology body denied that the haze in Malaysia was due to fires in Sumatra, highlighting satellite data over the past few days. Mr Mulyono Prabowo of Indonesia's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency was quoted as saying in a report by Indonesian media outlet Tempo.co yesterday: "It is not like the news reports by foreign mass media."

He said satellite data indicated that there were 2,510 hot spots throughout South-east Asia during the Sept 4 to Sept 8 period, the Malay Mail Online reported. "These hot spots were spread across Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, Timor Leste and Thailand."

Singapore's National Environment Agency said yesterday that the country may experience occasional slightly hazy conditions as the number of hot spots detected in Sumatra soared from 113 last Saturday to 333 on Sunday.

But the agency predicted "generally fair conditions" for Singapore over the next few days, and will provide updates when necessary on its website.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2019, with the headline 'Malaysia ready to induce rain in effort to ease haze'. Print Edition | Subscribe