NREB to upgrade state’s particulate matter benchmark to PM2.5 standard

KUCHING, July 31: Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) hopes to upgrade Sarawak’s particulate matter benchmark to PM2.5 in order to standardise measurements with other ASEAN countries, notably Singapore, which uses the benchmark of PM2.5.

During a briefing at Menara Pelita here today, NREB controller Dr Peter Sawal said Sarawak was presently adhering to the PM10 standard.

PM, the acronym for particulate matter or particle pollution, is a mixture of solids and liquid droplets floating in the air. Particles less than 2.5 micrometers are called PM2.5 and particles less than or equal to 10 micrometers in diameter are called PM10. These particles are so small that they can get into the lungs, potentially causing serious health problems.

On the monitoring of air quality in Sarawak, Peter said presently there were 15 air monitoring stations in the state. One more will be built this year and another next year. Most of the existing ones are situated in urban areas, except the three in Lawas, Lubok Antu and Tebedu.

“These three are meant to monitor transboundary haze,” said Peter, who disclosed that the new one to be built this year will be in Lundu, while the one to be built next year will be in Bario.

Peter said NREB was monitoring air quality in the state on a daily basis. It also downloads satellite images that the ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre in Singapore (ASMC) processed to make comparison studies.

NREB controller Dr Peter Sawal at the briefing on air quality monitoring. It was held at Menara Pelita in Kuching today (July 31, 2018).

Data collected from the 12 air monitoring stations under the Department of Environment (DOE) and those from the meteorological stations would also be used to provide daily reports on the air quality in Sarawak.

On hotspots and open burning, he said hotspots might be detected by satellite. Once a hotspot or open burning is detected, NREB would overlay the satellite images with the ArcMap.

“By using the coordinates, we can do desktop analysis and will know where the burning has taken place,” said Peter, adding that once the sites were determined, its enforcement stations in Kuching, Samarahan, Betong, Sibu, Mukah, Bintulu, Miri and Limbang would be alerted.

“We will set up a new office in Kapit. That will enhance enforcement and monitoring activities,” he assured. — DayakDaily