SIBU: All forms of open burning should stop as three places in the state are now experiencing unhealthy air quality, said Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Dato Sri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.
He told The Borneo Post yesterday that there were 82 hotspots in Kalimantan, Indonesia, and the resulting haze had crossed over to Sarawak.
“All open burning should be avoided at the moment, especially in landfill areas, plantations, and peat soil areas. This applies to backyard burning, too. Plantations owners should advise their contractors and sub-contractors not to aggravate the situation, more so with the current hot and dry weather.” Sri Aman recorded the highest API (air pollutant index) reading of 124 as at 4pm yesterday, followed by Samarahan (115) and Kuching (104).
Citing data from the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC) in Singapore, Wan Junaidi said most of the hotspots were in north and central Kalimantan.
“There are 82 hotspots in Kalimantan and 18 in Sumatra. Because of the wind direction, the haze was swept across the border to places such as Kuching, Samarahan and Sri Aman.”
Peninsular Malaysia is not affected, yet. Places experiencing moderate air quality yesterday are Sibu, with API reading of 93, Bintulu (90), ILP Miri (83), Kapit (69), Limbang (51), Miri (75) and Sarikei (89).
An API reading of between 0 and 50 is considered healthy, 51-100 (moderate), 101-200 (unhealthy), 201-300 (very unhealthy), and 301 and above (hazardous). The general practice is to restrict all outdoor activities when the API crossed the 100 mark.
Wan Junadi said the Department of Environment (DOE) was monitoring the situation closely.
“This is all we can do at the moment since the condition has not reached the danger level, yet.”
The Health Department, when contacted, advised the public to take precautionary measures, including wearing masks, when going outdoor if the air quality plunged to an unhealthy level.
“Workers such as those at construction sites should wear masks,” said its director Datu Dr Zulkifli Jantan.
“Those with a history of asthma are advised to stay indoors. If they have to go out, they should wear masks, too.”
Dr Zulkifli added that schools should limit outdoor activities if the air quality deteriorated.
Sibu Disaster Relief Management Committee chairman Sim Kok Kee said his committee was monitoring the situation very closely.
He, however, said the operation room had yet to be activated.
“We will only do so when the need arises,” Sim, who is also Sibu Resident, said.
In view of the dry and hot water, he advised the people to drink lots of water, and those facing water problems should alert his office so that their plights could be forwarded to the Public Works Department (PWD) and Sibu Water Board (SWB).
Meanwhile in Miri, the API reading rose from 78 as at 6am to 74 by 11am and hit 83 by 3pm yesterday.
Miri Zone 6 Fire and Rescue chief, Supt Law Poh Kiong, when contacted yesterday, said there had been no report of open burning activities in the city.
“We are patrolling several areas, including Kuala Baram, regularly, but so far there has been no open burning happening.”