Malaysia faces worsening haze

Malaysia faces worsening haze
A woman covers her mouth with a towel as she cycles in her village amid light haze in Muar, in Malaysia's southern state of Johor bordering Singapore, June 20, 2013. Photo: Reuters
Air Pollution Index at dangerous levels, hitting 337 in Muar, Johor; schools urged to stop outdoor activities
Published: 1:19 PM, June 20, 2013
Updated: 8:56 PM, December 23, 2013

MUAR (JOHOR) — Malaysians in the south of the peninsula are facing the worst of the haze this year, especially in Johor and Malacca.

The worst hit was Muar, Johor, on the Straits of Malacca. The air pollution index (API) there shot up to 337, which is rated dangerous.

Kota Tinggi, over in the eastern part of Johor, recorded a very unhealthy reading 211.

The Department of Environment (DOE) released the figures this morning (June 20), identifying four other areas experiencing unhealthy levels — Pasir Gudang and Larkin Lama (Johor Baru), and Malacca town and Bukit Rambai.

The DOE has already banned open burning in Selangor, Johor and Melaka. The Melaka government has also urged all schools in the state to stop outdoor activities.

Just yesterday, Health Minister Dr S Subramaniam announced that operations rooms would be set up in places where the API has exceeded 200.

The DOE lists API levels from 51 to 100 as moderate, 101 to 200 as unhealthy, and 201 to 300 as very unhealthy. Levels above 301 are dangerous.

The source of the haze is Sumatra, Indonesia. Fires have spread throughout the island’s region of Riau, an area that is right across the Straits of Malacca from Melaka, Johor and Singapore.

Air pollution usually becomes an issue in Malaysia and Singapore during the dry season from June to September when monsoon winds blow clouds of smoke caused by raging fires in Sumatra.

To date, Indonesia is the only member of the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) that has not ratified a 2002 agreement on reducing haze pollution. THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER