M’sia expresses concerns over rise in Sumatra hotspots


KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has sent a letter to Indonesia expressing concerns after 600 hotspots with high temperature levels were detected via satellite imagery in Sumatra this year.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Dato Sri Douglas Uggah said that the letter was sent on Friday to his Indonesian counterpart, State Minister for Environment, Professor Dr Gusti Muhammad Hatta.

Malaysia, however, believed that Indonesia was doing its best to manage the situation, he told Bernama. “In fact in the past few years, they have improved their response and efforts to tackle such fire.”

Uggah is expected to meet his Indonesian counterpart at the Asean Ministerial Steering Committee meeting in Bangkok on Sept 18.

Stressing that the haze was caused by the monsoon wind which had brought the smoke from forest fires in Sumatra to several parts of Malaysia, Uggah said the situation, however, was not as bad as it was in the past, especially in 1997 and 2005 when the air pollutant index readings hit record highs. — Bernama

Asked on Malaysia’s proposal for the creation of an Asean regional rapid fire-fighting squad to tackle haze-related fires in member countries, he said, the matter would be discussed at the 12th Meeting of Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution in Bangkok on Sept 22-33.

“We will push for this unit because we need quick deployment should any member country requires such assistance.
“It’s not just about sending firefighters to other countries; it’s also about them coming to help us when the situation requires it,” he said.

Malaysia sent 1,000 firefighters to help Indonesia tackle forest fires in 1997 and 124 in 2005 for a similar mission.
An emergency was declared in Sarawak in September 1997 at the height of the haze crisis that year which was caused by forest fires in neighbouring Kalimantan.

On Aug 11, 2005, an emergency was declared in Port Klang and Kuala Selangor following the worsening haze situation due to the forest fires in Sumatra and Riau, with the air pollutant index reaching 500. – Bernama