SIBU: The south-easterly wind has started, bringing some relief from the haze that recently forced thousands of schools in the country to close.
While there had been rain, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Dato Sri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said it was inconsequential to stop the haze as the forest fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra were still razing.
What he feared was the prolonged El-Nino that might cause dryness throughout South-East Asia.
The Air Pollutant Index (API) at 3pm yesterday in most parts of the country recorded moderate air quality with some areas having good air quality.
Only two places in Johor recorded unhealthy air quality – Larkin Lama (140) and Pasir Gudang (105).
“It (improved situation) is not due to the rain but the wind direction because the south-easterly wind starts blowing now without interference from the cyclones or typhoons.
“As a result, the wind is blowing quite strongly from the South China Sea towards the Peninsula and also towards Sarawak.
“So that resulted in the smoke from Kalimantan not reaching Sarawak and the smoke from Sumatra is actually because of the cycle of the wind going through the Straits of Malacca, sending the smoke to west coast of Peninsula.
“The forest fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra are still not being stopped. Therefore, it is because of the wind direction and nothing else.
“The rain has not affected it very much,” Wan Junaidi told The Borneo Post yesterday.
He was asked if the improved condition in the country was due to the onset of the wet season.
However, the Santubong MP said rain was expected by the end of the month.
“But what I fear is the prolonged El-Nino effect may cause dryness in the whole of South-East Asia.
“Anyway, we expect some rain in October and November, which will be able to help a little bit towards the problem of forest fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra.”
Asked if the situation was expected to improve further, he said it all depended on wind direction but added that the haze was slowly blown away.
He was quick to point out that unlike normal smoke, haze contained floating particles which could not be just blown away.
Meanwhile, Assistant Minister of Local Government Datuk John Sikie Tayai urged the public to refrain from backyard burning to clear their rubbish such as dried leaves.
“Due to the current hot and dry weather, it is important that local councils in the state ensure that people do not burn their garden waste,” he said.
The API guide from Department of Environment (DOE) indicates reading from 0-50 as healthy; 51-100 is moderate; 101-200 (unhealthy); 201-300 (very unhealthy) and 301 and above as hazardous).
The guide also indicates when reading touches 101, outdoor activities should be restricted.