Taskforce set up to combat haze


HANDS-ON: Awang Tengah (second right) checks out the peat swamp fire near SK Agama in Lawas with personnel from the Fire and Rescue Services Department and heads of government departments and agencies.

LAWAS: The District Disaster and Relief Committee and community leaders here need extra water tanks, excavators to dig trenches and greater public awareness campaigns to combat peat swamp fires caused by the dry spell.

A taskforce led by Lawas district officer Mohd Supaih Hamdan has been set up to act decisively on controlling the haze and ensure that clean water is supplied to schools and villages affected by the ongoing drought.

Water rationing was carried out in Sundar and Awat-Awat villages and schools following water supply shortage due to the lower water table, higher demand and leaking pipes.

Second Minister of Resource Planning and Environment Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan called for a multi-agency meeting yesterday at Lawas District Office, instructing that focus be put on extinguishing peat swamp fires and smoke affecting the Banting Resettlement Scheme and Sekolah Agama (MIS) Sarawak in Lawas.

He had chaired another meeting upon arriving in Lawas on Sunday, concerned by the sight of hotspots which were visible from the air as he flew in to attend a ‘Ngiling Tikai’ function at Rumah Ajan in Merangang in the evening.

The minister contributed five new water pumps, hose and fuel to the committee to assist the Fire and Rescue Services Department.

The town has been hit by the haze the past week.

Rela members had been roped in to assist the firemen in extinguishing the fires and Lawas police have been instructed to help monitor the situation.

“All works in the field would be led by the Fire and Rescue Service personnel while the whole operation would be co-ordinated by Mohd Supaih Hamdan as district disaster relief and co-ordination committee chairman,” he said.

The Public Works Department (PWD) currently has only one water tanker to ferry supplies to schools and the hospital, and Awang Tengah has instructed that at least another three be out-sourced by the authorities to meet the critical demand.

Resident district engineer Norman Jan told the meeting that the situation was critical in Sundar and Awat-Awat, forcing the authorities to impose water rationing.

“Those in Sundar got the water supply in the morning, while those in Awat-Awat in the evening in the past week and we hope it would be over soon when the contract works are completed tomorrow,” he said.