We have been assured that the haze in the country was still under control as no unhealthy Air Pollution Index reading (API of over 100) had been recorded anywhere. The truth is that we are never in control when it comes to the haze.
We are at the mercy of the weather and depended on the winds to blow away the acrid smoke from Indonesia. We have no power to stop the forest burnings in our neighbouring country. There is nothing if we can do if it refuses our help to put out the fires.
So when Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the haze in the country was still under control, he couldn’t be more wrong. We are at the mercy of others and the weather. The best we can do is cloud seeding and hope that rain would be good enough to clear the air.
A total of 183 hotspots have been detected in Kalimantan and seven in Sumatera, Indonesia. This is the beginning of yet another period when the region is shrouded in haze.
Indonesia has already warned that haze from forest fires was heading our way. The number of blazes was on the rise, triggering the possibility of haze blanketing areas in Sarawak first. The haze would cover much of Southeast Asia if the winds were blow it this way.
Hotspots had been detected in four areas in Sibu, four in Sri Aman, two in Miri, two in Kapit and one each in Limbang, Bintulu and Sarikei. The Klang Valley was affected last week and areas around Manjung the worst hit. The Air Pollutant Index (API) was at the moderate level of 97 on Saturday.
An API reading of 0 to 50 indicates good air quality; 51 to 100, moderate; 101 to 200, unhealthy; 201 to 300, very unhealthy and 300 and above, hazardous.
In a Bernama report, Wan Junaidi said the 183 hotspots detected by the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre based in Singapore since Saturday were a significant increase from the 177 hotspots reported the day before.
He anticipated that the haze this time would not be as bad as the situation experienced in the country late last year as the Indonesian government as well as other Asean countries have shown their full commitment in tackling the problem to ensure the situation would not recur, it added.
Last year’s haze outbreak was among the worst as it shrouded Malaysia, Singapore and parts of Thailand in acrid smoke. The haze forced school closures and thousands fell sick due to the high API.
The forest fires are an annual problem in the region as forests are cleared through this way to clear land and make way for agricultural use. Despite criticism from its neighbours, forest fires continue to rage in Indonesia during the dry periods.
We have no control over the situation. Only Indonesia can effectively bring the yearly crisis under control.