by DASHVEENJIT KAUR/ pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
PRIME Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad will send a letter to his Indonesian counterpart President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) on the transboundary haze issue affecting both nations.
Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin said she discussed with Dr Mahathir about the issue and he has agreed to write to Jokowi to get the latter’s attention on the matter.
“The PM’s Office will decide when will the official letter be sent, but Dr Mahathir said he will do it as soon as possible,” Yeo told reporters after the official closing ceremony of EngineeringIndustry Innovation Day 2019 at Universiti Teknologi sia, Johor Baru.
On Wednesday, Yeo refuted Indonesia’s Environment Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar’s claim that the haze originated from Sarawak.
She said Siti Nurbaya should not be in denial, adding that the data spoke for itself.
On a Facebook posting, Yeo who shared several links said the data clearly showed that Indonesia was indeed responsible for the haze in Malaysia.
“As for her (Siti Nurbaya’s) claim that the haze is from Sarawak, just look at the wind direction. How is it logically possible?” she wrote.
Yeo pointed out that hotspots in Borneo rose to 1,188 yesterday from 480 on Wednesday, while Sumatra increased to 431 from 387.
In comparison, there were only five hotspots in Malaysia yesterday compared to seven the day before.
Based on Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre’s (ASMC) website, haze outlook, hotspot activities in Sumatra and Kalimantan are likely to continue under the prevailing dry conditions, and smoke haze from the hotspots may affect parts of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Sarawak.
As of yesterday, ASMC also issued an Alert Level 3 for Sumatra and Kalimantan as both locations exceeded 250 hotspots in two consecutive days with dense smoke plumes, dry weather persisting and prevailing winds blowing towards Asean countries.
“Over the past few days, there has been a further escalation of hotspot activities and deterioration in haze situation in Sumatra. Persistent hotspots in Riau and Jambi have led to a buildup of moderate to dense smoke haze there.
“The smoke haze has been blown across the Strait of Malacca to western parts of Peninsular Malaysia by the prevailing winds. The prevailing dry weather in the region is expected to persist in the coming weeks, and a further escalation of hotspot activities in Sumatra is possible,” the alert read.
ASMC also highlighted that the prevailing winds are expected to continue blowing from the southeast or southwest, and that the transboundary haze situation could worsen.
To recap, air quality has dramatically deteriorated this week — with nearly two dozen locations affected by haze nationwide — blanketing eight out of the country’s 13 states.
As wind continues to blow haze from Kalimantan and Sumatra in Indonesia into sian cities, officials have resorted to issuing a ban on open burning and offering help to Indonesia to tackle forest fires on Monday.
Over 400 schools in Sarawak were closed on Tuesday and half a million face masks were sent to the state after its Air Pollution Index readings breached 200.
As the unhealthy air levels persisted till yesterday, three schools in Klang, Selangor, were ordered to close.
Meanwhile, Yeo also said cloud-seeding process would take place in Sarawak to address the growing problem of cross-border haze.
“The move was approved by the Cabinet yesterday as the issue of haze in the country is severe. “All relevant agencies are ready to begin the process of cloud seeding once the initial monitoring is completed,” she said.
Given the increasing number of forest fires in Borneo yesterday, Yeo said haze in Sarawak is expected to intensify.
“However, the government has initiated the cloud-seeding process in Sarawak today, and if the cloud conditions are favourable, it will start as soon as possible,” she said.
Malaysian Ambassador to Indonesia Zainal Abidin Bakar also sent a letter to the Indonesian government last Friday.
“It is not a protest letter, but (about) Malaysia’s intention to help dealing with haze,” he told reporters.