KLANG (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Selangor government has decided to conduct cloud-seeding operations in haze-affected areas where the Air Pollutant Index (API) reading exceeds the very unhealthy level of 200.
State Environment, Green Technology, Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) and Consumer Affairs Committee chairman, Hee Loy Sian, in a statement on Thursday (Sept 12), said the Disaster Management Committee at district and state levels would be activated whenever the API recorded readings of between 151 and 200, which is the unhealthy level, for more than 24 hours, Bernama reported.
"All schools, kindergartens and nurseries were ordered closed immediately when the API reading exceeded 200 after getting confirmation from the Selangor Department of Environment (DOE)," Mr Hee added.
He also reminded people not to carry out open burning. In addition, the state government would be supplying dust masks to the public.
According to DOE website, as at 7am on Friday (Sept 13), the API in Johan Setia, Klang, showed a very unhealthy reading of 209, while five more areas were at an unhealthy level, namely Shah Alam (133), Klang (124), Banting (122), Petaling Jaya (135) and Kuala Selangor (109).
Amid the worsening air quality, a total of 29 schools in Selangor are closed on Friday.
On Thursday, 45 schools in Selangor and Pahang were ordered closed while 100,000 face masks will be distributed to students in Penang.
Earlier, five schools in Johan Setia area in Klang district were ordered closed due to the escalating API and a directive has been issued to close 16 schools in Rompin, Pahang.
The five schools ordered closed in Johan Setia are SK Jalan Kebun, SMK Jalan Kebun, SK Kampung Johan Setia, SK Bukit Naga and SK Kampung Pendamar.
The Selangor Education Department has also directed other schools to close if the API exceeds 200.
According to a statement issued by the department, for any school in an area with API readings above 200, the administration shall take action as stated in the Ministry of Education (MOE) circular No. 1/2019 by immediately closing the institution until the situation improves.
"The school closures will not affect the execution of examinations, including public examinations, which will continue as scheduled."
"All schools involved are advised to refer to the MOE's circular and to take action in accordance with the statement in the letter," it added.
Asked earlier on how long the five schools will be closed, Selangor deputy education director Muhamad Radzi Abdullah said they would remain closed for as long as API remains at the current level.
Selangor Environment Department director Shafee Yasir said a meeting on the haze situation was held between agencies and the state government.
Mr Shafee said API readings taken at 11pm daily would determine if a school closes or opens.
The API reading was at its highest at 213 from 9am to 10am on Thursday but dropped to 194 at 5pm.
Johan Setia residents were also plagued by smoke from open burning on peat soil by small-scale farmers in the area and Bernama reported that many residents in Selangor were spotted wearing masks.
In Kuantan, State Education, Islamic Affairs and Health Committee chairman Syed Ibrahim Syed Ahmad said poor air quality had forced 16 schools in Rompin to close. If the situation worsens, it might affect those sitting for the Form Three Assessment (PT3).
PT3 candidates are now undergoing the English assessment, which started on Sept 2 and ends on Oct 1. The written examination will then begin and end on Oct 8.
Datuk Seri Syed Ibrahim also urged Muslims in Pahang to hold solat hajat (special prayers) for rain to reduce the haze.
In Penang, the haze situation worsened with the API recording unhealthy levels in two areas on the island over the course of Friday.
According to the DOE, Balik Pulau and Minden had API readings of 137 and 107 respectively at noon. The DOE is expecting the haze to get worse later in the day.
State environment committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said on Thursday 100,000 face masks would be issued to schools on the island through the respective assemblymen service teams, adding that the schools would remain open for now.
"We are facing a shortage of face masks and the priority will be for schools on the island because the API hasn't reached critical stage on the mainland."
Mr Phee said the state would come down hard on those who conducted open burning, by imposing the maximum fine of RM500,000 (S$165,000).
Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the state youth and sports committee chairman Soon Lip Chee had directed schools, government agencies and sports organisations to stop all outdoor activities.