Haze: DOE to increase enforcement in opening burning potential areas

19 Oct 2023 06:30pm
Image for illustrative purposes only. - BERNAMA
Image for illustrative purposes only. - BERNAMA

PUTRAJAYA - The Department of Environment (DoE) has been directed to increase enforcement and daily patrols in areas with the potential of open burning occurring, said Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change (NRECC) Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad.

This follows the Kota Tinggi forest fire incident on Oct 15 involving 32 hectares of forest. Seventy per cent fire has been extinguished.

"All landowners have been advised to closely monitor all areas which easily and frequently catch fire," he said in a statement today.

Nik Nazmi said monitoring and observation carried out on the forest fire incident found that there was still smoke coming from the land's surface, and enforcement action will be taken against the landowner after an official search is made at the land office later.

He said the haze issue in the country was also mentioned in the Cabinet meeting yesterday, and he has communicated with the Education Ministry and Ministry of Health (MoH) to temporarily stop outdoor activities due to the deterioration of air quality in the country.

This was in line with the National Haze Action Plan (PTJK) for air quality to be constantly monitored to ensure the agencies involved in haze disaster management can take more quick and responsive action.

Among the actions under the PTJK are activating the Disaster Management Committee which will be mobilised by the National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA) when the Air Pollutant Index (API) reading exceeds 150 for a period of more than 24 hours; stopping all activities outside the classrooms when the API reading exceeds 100; closing schools, kindergartens and nurseries when the API reading exceeds 200.

This is in line with the standard operating procedures (SOP) set by the MoH which applies to all and must be followed to avoid untoward incidents. Apart from this, cloud seeding operations will also be implemented if needed, he said.

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At 1pm today, Klang in Selangor recorded an unhealthy API reading of 153.

According to Nik Nazmi, although only Klang recorded an unhealthy API reading, the trend of air quality throughout the week showed that several areas often recorded unhealthy readings, especially in Peninsular Malaysia due to the movement of haze.

The Regional Haze Map, released by the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC) on Oct 18, also found that the current wind movement in the southern part of ASEAN is from east to southeast, whereas in the next few days, the southern part of ASEAN will receive higher rainfall which will lead to a reduction in hotspots and haze.

In dealing with the haze issue, Nik Nazmi said Malaysia has entered into a bilateral agreement with Indonesia on haze prevention efforts on a government-to-government basis under the framework of the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

He said the NRECC will also examine the propriety of enacting the Bill on Transboundary Haze to deal with the haze crisis in the country.

It includes the feasibility of the law to be enacted, diplomatic relations with neighbouring countries as well as the implementation of similar acts by other countries to ensure that there is no waste of resources in enacting the act. He added that the NRECC could also examine the mechanism of instruments or other appropriate legislation to deal with the matter.

In facing the haze crisis, the public is urged to always be careful and sensitive to the air quality level in their respective areas and to take preventive steps to reduce the health effects of haze, including avoiding outdoor physical activities in order to reduce exposure to unhealthy air.

Those involved in open burning activities can be fined not exceeding RM500,000 or imprisoned for a period not exceeding five years or both as stipulated under Section 29(A), Environmental Quality Act 1974. They can also be fined a maximum compound of RM2,000 for each offence. - BERNAMA