Malaysian air at ‘unhealthy’ levels as haze returns

Malaysian air at ‘unhealthy’ levels as haze returns
Haze enveloped Bandar Saujana Putra outside KL on Saturday, though air quality in the capital was at moderate levels. Photo: AP
Areas near Selangor, Negeri Sembilan record unhealthy readings; govt to tap ministry resources to tackle dry spell
Published: 4:04 AM, March 3, 2014
Updated: 6:43 AM, March 3, 2014
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KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia experienced a return of the haze yesterday, with air quality in several areas near Selangor and Negeri Sembilan reaching unhealthy levels.

Port Klang, Putrajaya, Banting and Seremban recorded unhealthy air pollutant index (API) readings until 5pm yesterday, said the Department of Environment’s website. By 6pm yesterday, however, only Port Klang was still recording an unhealthy API reading of 118.

An API reading of between 0 and 50 is considered good; while 51 to 100 is moderate; 101 to 200, unhealthy; 201 to 300, very unhealthy; and 301 and above, hazardous.

The API calculation is based on five major air pollutants — sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide and particulate matter with a diameter lower than 10 micrometres. Most of the pollutants come from sources such as industries, motor vehicles, open burning and power generation.

However, air quality in other areas in the country, including the capital Kuala Lumpur, remained at moderate levels.

Open burning in Indonesia’s Riau province last week forced the authorities in Dumai to impose a state of emergency, close schools and urge residents to stay home, as air quality from the choking haze reached hazardous levels.

Riau, the centre of the world’s largest palm-oil industry, experiences thousands of fires each dry season as farmers clear land to make way for agricultural expansion. Smoke from forest fires has caused more than 28,000 people in the province to suffer from various respiratory problems, said the Antara news agency.

According to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, about 7,972ha of land and forests have been destroyed by fires in the province, the Jakarta Globe reported, citing the Riau Haze Emergency Relief Taskforce.

Yesterday, the agency began using water-bombing methods to tackle fires that have continued to burn in 12 Riau subdistricts and municipalities.

Last year, Putrajaya declared a state of emergency in Muar and Ledang in Johor as API levels crossed 300 due to smoke from forest fires in Indonesia.

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