KUCHING, August 15: The haze currently engulfing the southern and central region of Sarawak may persist until the end of next month due to the prolonged dry weather and hotspots in the state and in neighbouring Kalimantan, Indonesia.
According to the Natural Resources and Environmental Board (NREB), three hotspots have been detected in Mukah, two in Kuching and one each in Sri Aman and Sarikei. The situation is worse in Kalimantan, with 121 hotspots detected, and the majority of these hotspots are near the Sarawak-Indonesian border.
The wind direction over the next few weeks could also be a factor, said Peter Sawal, NREB’s controller of environmental quality.
“The situation in Sarawak will be quite hazy till the end of September, but we are content that authorities and enforcement officers are active on the ground to monitor the haze situation and open burning activities,” he said.
He told reporters here today that the Air Pollutant Index (API) reading from Kuching up to Mukah and Bintulu was below 100, while the weather in northern Sarawak is good.
An API reading from 0 to 50 suggests good air quality, 51 to 100 (moderate), 101 to 200 (unhealthy), 201 to 300 (very unhealthy), and 301 and above (dangerous).
“A few incidents of open burning by farmers in Sri Aman, Betong, Sibu and Mukah had contributed to the haze condition. Enforcement officers have been deployed on the ground to monitor the situation as well as to advise local farmers against carrying out open burning.
“NREB stopped issuing permits for open burning since July,” he said, adding that those caught carrying out open burning illegally could face a fine of RM30,000. He cautioned the public that open burning could be detected via satellite.
Citing the Malaysian Meteorological Department, Peter said the state was expected to experience dry weather with intermittent rain until the end of next month. Hence, rural folks are advised to brace for water shortage, too. — DayakDaily