By Nigel Edgar
KUCHING, Sept 7: The Education Department will decide whether schools would be closed if the Air Pollution Index (API) reading stays above 200 for more than 24 hours.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said this is the standard operating procedure (SOP) of the Education Department to ensure that students would not have their health affected by the worsening haze situation, especially in Sarawak.
“We (state Disaster Management Committee) had a meeting yesterday with various agencies such as the Department of Environment (DoE), Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) and the Civil Defence Force (APM) to make preparations for the haze, particularly on the availability of facemasks, which would be distributed in selected schools here.
“We already have an SOP in place. If the API reading is still above 200 after 24 hours, then the Education director, school principals and headmasters can decide to close their schools for the day,” he said when met by reporters, here, today.
Uggah also hope that Putrajaya would be able to persuade the Indonesian government to take more stringent actions to prevent open burning, which had contributed to most of the haze problem in the country.
“I was told that as of yesterday, there were more than 1,000 hotspots discovered in Kalimantan. The main cause of our haze problem is the transboundary haze from there.
“If the fire or open burning is here, we would be able to take immediate measures but if it is transboundary, what can we do,” he said.
As in 2pm today (Sept 7) the API reading for Kuching remains at a very unhealthy level of 216, while Miri at 150, Sri Aman (178) and Kota Samarahan (199).
Malaysia’s API has five categories of air quality. Hazardous levels are readings above 300 while 201-300 is considered very unhealthy; 101-200 is unhealthy; 51-100 is moderate and everything below 50 is good.
Meanwhile, when asked about cloud seeding, Uggah explained that would depend on the availability of clouds to be seeded.
If there are no or very little clouds, the effort would be pointless, he said.
“Besides, most of the haze came from transboundary as well as the open burning,” he explained. — DayakDaily