Signing of KL-Jakarta haze deal delayed again

KUALA LUMPUR • The signing of a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Malaysia and Indonesia to tackle haze has been postponed, Malaysia's Natural Resources and Environment Minister, Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, said yesterday.

Mr Wan Junaidi said the deal, postponed for the second time, was delayed because his Indonesian counterpart was busy managing firefighting operations in Sumatra and Kalimantan, The Malaysian Insider reported.

The minister said he was confident the deal could be signed this year.

The MOU's main points include enforcement of laws, ensuring companies adopt zero-burning practices in Indonesia and collaboration between countries when fires break out, he said.

Air quality in Malaysia has improved, with most areas recording moderate readings on the Air Pollutant Index yesterday. There were no areas with unhealthy readings, the Bernama news agency reported.

In Indonesia, thick smoke reduced visibility in Padang in West Sumatra to around 1,000m yesterday, the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said. Most of the haze came from neighbouring provinces, the Antara news agency quoted a BMKG official as saying.

Haze was also occurring in Papua province in the far east of Indonesia, disaster management agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho confirmed in a mobile text message to The Straits Times.

He said: "In Merauke regency, there are big plantation businesses, and almost every year, they have recorded high hot spot counts."

Air quality plunged yesterday in Palangkaraya, capital of Central Kalimantan province, where the Air Quality Index (AQI) hit 695 in the early afternoon. In Palembang, capital of South Sumatra province, the AQI was 126 by mid-afternoon.

A reading of zero to 50 is considered good, 51 to 100 is moderate, 101 to 200 is unhealthy, 201 to 300 is very unhealthy, and above 300 is hazardous.

• Additional reporting by Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja in Jakarta

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2015, with the headline 'Signing of KL-Jakarta haze deal delayed again'. Print Edition | Subscribe