Malaysia addresses haze issue at regional ministry meeting


THE government is discussing the haze problem with several Asean countries at the two-day 21st Technical Working Group and Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution in Brunei Darussalam beginning yesterday.

In a statement yesterday, the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC) said the Malaysian delegation is led by its Deputy Minister Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis.

“This year’s meeting will involve five countries — namely, Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand — in order to monitor and strengthen the steps that need to be taken to overcome transboundary haze, in line with the Asean agreement regarding the issue,” it said.

The ministry said the government plans to report all actions that have been taken to ensure any open burning and haze can be avoided via the re-evaluation of the National Hazard Action Plan, as well as the activation of the National Open Burning Action Plan.

“Malaysia will also call on member nations to take proactive measures to ensure that forest and peat fires in Asean countries can be controlled in order to prevent transboundary haze pollution,” it said.

MESTECC noted that a slight haze has occurred around the Klang Valley, in the south west coast, as well as the west coast of Sarawak due to land and forest fires in Sumatra and Borneo, Indonesia.

“There are a few hotspots that could not be identified by satellite due to thick clouds,” it said.

Based on a report by Singapore-based Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC), a total of 19 satellite images from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has detected 25 hotspots including 23 in Kalimantan, Indonesia, and two hotspots in Sabah.

ASMC had also released a Regional Hazard Map which indicated that there was smoke haze from the fire areas, lands and forests in Indonesia’s Riau, Jambi, West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan.

MESTECC said winds from the southwest have the potential to bring haze from the affected areas of Sumatra and Kalimantan to the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia and west of Sarawak which will raise the Air Pollution Index readings in those areas.

“The Department of Environment will continue to monitor the status and trends of air quality on an hourly basis following the rise of hotspots in Sumatra and Borneo,” it said.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Meteorological Department weather forecasts up to today showed the country is still under the southwest monsoon phase which is expected to persist until mid-September 2019.

The department said tropical storm Wipha, that is approaching northern Vietnam, is expected to weaken and will disappear on Aug 4, while Tropical Storm Francisco has formed in the Pacific waters.

As such, the system will affect the wind patterns in the region and the weather is also expected to be dry during the forecast period, it added.

The ministry also said all relevant agencies will continue to monitor closely the status and trends of air quality to prevent open burning that could cause haze.