Prolonged haze shuts over 400 schools in Sarawak

A total of 157,479 students are affected by the closure, while the UPSR examinations are conducted as scheduled


THE prolonged transboundary haze forced over 400 schools in Sarawak from nine districts to close yesterday.

The Sarawak Education Department said a total of 157,479 students were affected by the closure, while the UPSR examinations for Standard Six students were conducted as scheduled.

According to the department, Kuching has the highest student population with 60,509 students, while Padawan has the most schools affected. Out of 101, 86 are primary schools.

AFP reported that the smog blowing from the forest fires in Indonesia, which was said to be caused by land-clearing activities for crop cultivation, had shut hundreds of schools across South-East Asia.

Despite the persisting thick smog in Sarawak, none of the observation stations in the state recorded Air Pollution Index (API) readings above 200 points yesterday.

Based on the website, API readings of two areas in Sarawak — Sri Aman and Kuching, which recorded “very unhealthy” levels on Monday — had improved to “unhealthy” at 176 and 141 points respectively, as at 5pm yesterday.

However, the API readings in 10 stations — four in Selangor, two in Negri Sembilan, two in Melaka, one in Tangkak and one in Rompin, had worsened to “unhealthy” from Monday’s “moderate”.

Out of the total 68 stations, 48 were still within the “moderate” level, while the air quality in Kimanis in Sabah was considered as “good” with below 50 points.

As a preventive measure, the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) has distributed 500,000 face masks to Sarawak to help reduce health effects.

In a statement, the agency said it is currently monitoring the situation in the country and has instructed the Fire and Rescue Departments to be on standby.

“The decision to temporarily close the schools was made by the Ministry of Education based on the current API readings, as schools are generally advised to close when API readings exceed 200,” Nadma said, adding that the government has sent a diplomatic note to Indonesia requesting for an immediate action to control the haze.

Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin submitted a letter of cooperation on Monday to the Indonesian Environmental Affairs and Forestry Ministry to progress the issue.

Malaysian Ambassador to Indonesia Zainal Abidin Bakar had also met with Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry to discuss the negative implication of haze to Malaysians.

Nadma added that presently, there is no directive by the Indonesian government to curb the forest fires in Kalimantan and Sumatera.