Authorities take action to prevent deliberate open burning, wildfires as air quality deteriorates in Kuching, Serian, Sri Aman

Uggah (right) in discussion with Sejingkat Bridge contractors during an inspection visit on Sept 5, 2023.

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By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Sept 5: The relevant authorities including the Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) and Department of Environment (DOE) Sarawak have been urged to take actions to prevent deliberate or intentional open burning in Sarawak during this period of hot weather.

Deputy Premier Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas highlighted this following a Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) meeting which convened yesterday to address the unhealthy air quality detected in three regions of Sri Aman, Serian and Kuching recently.

As of 1pm today, the Air Pollution Index of Malaysia (APIMS) website reported that air quality in both Kuching and Serian has worsened, with an air pollution index (API) of 152 compared to 135 and 144 respectively at 3pm yesterday (Sept 4).

Sri Aman air quality has improved to a moderate level of 98 compared to 154 yesterday.

“While the air quality has not reached the danger level (very unhealthy with API readings 201-300 and hazardous above 300), we have requested the relevant authorities to take immediate action.

“This includes the Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) and the Civil Defence Force (APMM), who are on standby to respond and facilitate, especially in swiftly putting out any wildfires,” he told reporters during an inspection visit to the Sejingkat Bridge project site today.

Uggah, who is also SDMC chairman, strongly discouraged the public from conducting any open burning during this hot spell.

He assured the public that they are closely monitoring the haze situation, especially in areas prone to wildfires such as in Kuala Baram near Miri, where the situation is currently under control.

He explained that DOE and NREB are also deploying drones to monitor the largely flat area for signs of smoke to enable swift response and actions.

“In addition, we have established watch posts manned by Rela officers as well as constructed tube wells for waster pumping and watch towers in Miri to oversee water levels in peat areas to ensure safety of the areas.

“The government is taking all necessary precautionary measures and so far, the situation is good (without major wildfires). All we need is the cooperation from the public,” he said.

Uggah added that they also had a dialogue with landowners recently, who gave assurance to cooperate in assisting and ensuring that any fire incidents can be promptly brought under control.

At the same time, he also advised the public to prioritise their health and heed health advice, particularly those with pre-existing health problems and sensitivity, as deteriorating air quality can have adverse effects on their well-being. — DayakDaily