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Haze: No cause for concern yet
Posted on : 28 Jul 2017  Source of News: theborneopost.com

Jonathan Chia, reporters@theborneopost.com

KUCHING: Sarawakians need not be too worried about the return of haze at the moment as the situation in Central and West Kalimantan is still under control.

Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Dato Sri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said although he is concerned about the haze, there is no need for Sarawakians to be worried at the moment because the fires in Central and West Kalimantan are not really that bad.

“However, we are hopeful that the measures taken in Riau and Aceh in declaring states of emergency are also taken by the Indonesian provincial governments of Central, East and West Kalimantan, with assistance from the central government agencies such as the police and army,” he told The Borneo Post yesterday.

Wan Junaidi was asked whether there is a cause for Sarawakians to be worried as it was reported that five Indonesian provinces have declared states of emergency as peat lands burn in Aceh, and the risk of fires spreading elsewhere increase during the annual dry season.

Indonesian National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said 18 helicopters had been deployed to help extinguish fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Satellite images show that the number of fires increased from 150 on Sunday to 179 on Tuesday, Nugroho said.

Nugroho said the provinces of Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan and South Kalimantan have declared emergencies in anticipation of fires worsening and to mitigate the choking smoke that peat lands generate when burned.

A state of emergency was earlier declared in West Aceh District, where fires on peat land have expanded over 70 hectares within a week.

Wan Junaidi, who is Santubong MP, said in declaring states of emergency, it showed that the provincial government in the respective areas were concerned and taking immediate action by signalling to the central government to assist them in suppressing the fires.

“So after, the emergency has been declared, the central government and the provincial governments are working together to suppress the fires. To us, this is a good signal as this shows they are concerned and taking immediate action.”

In noting that his ministry, through the operations room activated to monitor haze in the country, has been in communications with their Indonesian counterpart, Wan Junaidi said he would personally communicate Malaysia’s concern and offer assistance to the Indonesian authorities.

“We have activated our operations room to monitor haze since May 17. Officers have been asked to report to me the haze situation in the country, fire outbreak, wind direction and rain twice a week. Since three days ago, the monitoring centre in the Department of Environment has been asked to report to me daily.”

Wan Junaidi said based on the reports received, there were heavy fires detected in Aceh and North West of Indonesia.

“Based on the direction of wind during this period over the last two years, haze will not reach Sarawak and Kuala Lumpur but may affect southern Thailand and northern Peninsula.”

Meanwhile, controller of Sarawak Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) Peter Sawal said they have started activating their standard operating procedure (SOP) on haze in the state.

He said the SOP was activated based on the local trend of Air Pollution Index (API), Fire Weather Index (FWI) and the hotspots detected in Sarawak.

“Although the Air Pollution Index (API) is still good (below 50), the temperature, according to the Fire Weather Index (FWI) system, is getting hotter. If the FWI is at seven, it is already categorised as fire hazard.”

Peter said the SOP enforced included revoking all open burning permits that were issued previously, keeping in view all applications for open burning permit and conducting site verification to all hotspots detected.

“We are monitoring illegal open burning and our enforcement teams at regional offices are on standby.”

Peter added that NREB would also continuously disseminate information pertaining to the weather situation through daily haze watch, besides conducting outreach programme and educating the public through the media on the prevention of haze from local sources.