Zero tolerance for open burning amid rising haze levels, Deputy Minister warns

Dr Hazland gestures during a press conference on Sept 29, 2023. Photo credit: Ukas

KUCHING, Sept 30: The public is strongly advised to refrain from engaging in open burning activities that may exacerbate the ongoing cross-border haze situation in Sarawak.

Deputy Minister of Energy and Environmental Sustainability Dr Hazland Abang Hipni, emphasised that Sarawak’s Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) has implemented various measures to monitor and address open burning incidents.

These measures include the revocation of open burning permits, the issuance of open burning bans to project developers, as well as patrols and awareness programmes conducted in collaboration with the Sarawak Department of Environment (DOE).

He stressed that engaging in open burning constitutes a legal offense and can result in prosecution under Sarawak law.

“From a legal point of view, we would like to remind the public that convictions related to open burning can be prosecuted under the provisions of Section 30(1)(a) and Section 30(2) of the Sarawak Natural Resources and Environment Ordinance (Amendment 2019).

“Those found guilty may face fines of up to RM100,000, imprisonment for up to five years, or both,” he warned in a news report by Sarawak Public Communications Unit (Ukas) today.

He highlighted this during a joint press conference with NREB environmental quality controller Jack Liam and assistant controller (Monitoring and Reporting) Tsai Koh Fen at his office here on Friday.

Dr Hazland also urged the public to actively participate in extinguishing small fires and promptly report instances of open burning to the NREB office at 082-319543 or to the nearest NREB offices.

Furthermore, he assured the public of the confidentiality of reports, in accordance with Section 38 of the whistleblower protection provided by the same ordinance.

Elaborating, Dr Hazland pointed out that the Air Pollution Index (API) in Serian recorded unhealthy air quality with readings peaking at 156 points on Sept 28, along with detected hotspots in Samarahan, Sri Aman and Kuching.

In the event that the air quality continues to deteriorate and poses risks to public health, Dr Hazland said a decision would be forwarded to the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) to initiate necessary actions, including rain seeding to induce rainfall.

The API is calculated based on 24-hour average values obtained from air quality monitoring networks nationwide, with categorisations ranging from good (0-50), moderate (51-100), unhealthy (101-200), very unhealthy (201-300), dangerous (>300-500) to emergency (>500). — DayakDaily