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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

> Peat fires add to haze over Sabah, Sarawak

Air quality in six areas continues to be 'unhealthy' in Sabah and Sarawak as the haze from local and external sources takes its toll.

As at 5pm yesterday, the Air Pollution Index (API) readings remained among the worst in Sri Aman (108), Sibu (175), Samarahan (148), Sarikei (133), Miri (140) and Kuching (105).

Smog from Kalimantan continues to plague Sabah and Sarawak as satellite imagery from Asean Secretariat's HazeOnline monitoring site reveals.

However, rain in recent days appears to have cleared much of the haze over Peninsular Malaysia, with 20 areas recorded in the 'good' category of the API.

Most areas in the peninsula registered readings in the low 60s and 50s, especially in the north where Universiti Sains Malaysia had the lowest at 23.

Kuala Selangor and Muar had a 'moderate' reading of 88 and 94 respectively.

Air quality is deemed 'unhealthy' at readings of 101-200, 'very unhealthy' from 201-300 and 'hazardous' if above 300. A reading of 0-50 is deemed 'good' and from 51-100 as 'moderate'.

Battling peat fires

Local Government Minister Kong Cho Ha told Star that some 600 fire officers have been deployed to Sarawak to help control peat fires over an area of 566ha.

“Main towns like Sibu, Miri and Kuching are experiencing 'unhealthy' air quality due to fires mainly in a neighbouring country, but there are also fires in Sarawak that are worsening the problem,” he was quoted as saying.

The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, meanwhile, said burning is a common practice in land clearing activities, and that the ministry needs time to come up with an appropriate solution.

Deputy Minister Joseph Kurup told Bernama that the ministry will impose a fine on those involved in open burning, which contributes to unhealthy air quality and haze in the region.

Recently, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Douglas Uggah Embas was unable to do an aerial survey of hotspots in Sarawak as his flight was grounded due to poor visibility.

Status quo on haze

Earlier in the day, as of the 11am reading, the Air Pollution Index (API) maintained its steady downward trend in continuing to ease things for Malaysians both in the peninsular and Sabah and Sarawak.

The recent rainy spells have helped to clear up the worst of the haze.

The number of 'unhealthy' areas went down from six to two, the worst API today recorded in Miri and Sibu, with a reading of 184 and 113 respectively.

However, Miri actually showed an increase from yesterday's reading of 140, idling dangerously close to 'very unhealthy.'

'Good' classified areas went up to 23 from yesterday's 20. The north of the peninsula still leads with better air quality with Universiti Sains Malaysia having the lowest API of 27.

The 5 pm API readings also remained status quo with Miri (185) and Sibu (104) remaining the two 'unhealthy' areas - Malaysiakini.