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Malaysia warns of continuing drought as Malacca sounds water shortage alarm

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia has recorded its second death from heatstroke, as the government warned people to brace themselves for less rain and more haze “in the coming months”.

Malaysia warns of continuing drought as Malacca sounds water shortage alarm

A rice field in Kampung Padang Lalang in Kubang Pasu, Kedah. Many rice fields that can be seen from Jalan Kangar-Alor Star are dried up from the hot weather and waiting to be irrigated for the planting season. Water for the fields are being released in three phases in the state. Photo: Looi Sue-Chern/TODAY

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia has recorded its second death from heatstroke, as the government warned people to brace themselves for less rain and more haze “in the coming months”.

At the same time, Malacca became the latest state to be severely affected by the drought, with the state chief minister saying that the water supply would not last until September if the hot weather persists.

The latest heatstroke fatality was Wan Mohd Aliff Faisal Wan Ismedi, 23, a trainee undergoing a basic course for young volunteer servicemen at a polytechnic in Jitra, Kedah.

Malaysia, which is suffering from a punishing heatwave which has caused rivers and dams to dry up, recorded its first death from heatstroke last month when a police trainee constable died in Segamat, Johor. 

Health ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said Wan Mohd Aliff died on Tuesday (April 26). 

As of Wednesday, the country recorded 200 cases of heatstroke. Of the total, 126 were related to heat exhaustion, 52 people suffered heat cramps and 22 people got heatstroke.

The Malaysian Natural Resources and Environment Ministry on Thursday warned citizens to brace themselves for hazy weather soon, just days after the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry forecast the hot weather would persist until September.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Jaafar said winds were expected to blow the haze from Indonesia to Malaysia.

“The haze situation this year is potentially worse as Malaysia is already facing moderate haze due to local fires, and the coming monsoon winds will only bring in more haze from Indonesia,” he said.
Mr Wan Junaidi said although the El Nino phenomenon was expected to last until June, the south-west monsoon would prolong the hot and dry spell.

He also expressed concern over depleting water reserves at dams nationwide. Seven dams — Timah Tasoh (Perlis), Beris, Padang Saga, Muda (Kedah), Bukit Merah (Perak), Bukit Kwong (Kelantan) and Labong (Johor) — recorded water levels below 50 per cent.

“The government has decided to carry out cloud seeding operations daily. When water levels at rivers and lakes are low, it could lead to pollution,” Mr Wan Junaidi said. “The Cabinet has ordered ministries to take precautionary measures.”

He said the Department of Environment had detected 1,460 cases of open burning, between Jan 1 and Monday.

There are six areas where forest and peat fires continue to burn. They include Beris and Lalang mukim in Bachok, Kelantan; Kuala Langat Forest Reserve, Gunung Arong, Mersing in Johor; Kampung Durian Guling, Marang in Terengganu; Kampung Batu 7, Dungun in Terengganu; and an oil palm plantation in Felda Bukit Kemadol, Kuala Langat in Selangor.

“I have directed the department to take action on offenders.”

He also proposed the government take over land on which fires were allowed to burn unchecked.

“Existing laws are unable to prevent open burning ... so we want firmer action. In Sarawak, we call it ‘re-enter the land’ where the land is handed over to the government.

Meanwhile, Malacca Chief Minister Idris Haron said that water supply in his state cannot last until September if the hot weather persists until then.

He urged the people of Malacca to take steps to use water prudently now to “extend the lifespan” of the water supply in the state.

“We may have to take alternative steps such as building tube wells but what is most important is that we all must conserve water from now. This requires the cooperation of all, other than that, we can only pray,” he told a press conference after chairing the Malacca State Executive Council meeting in Petaling Jaya on Wednesday.

Last week, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Wilfred Madius Tangau was reported to have said Malaysia is expected to face water supply problems until September as a result of the current hot weather which is expected to last until then.

According to the Melaka Water Supervisory Board today, the water level at the Durian Tunggal Dam in Alor Gajah was at 40.6 per cent, the Jus Dam in Jasin (71 per cent) and the Asahan Dam in Jasin (83.6 per cent).

Mr Idris said as much as 200 million gallons of water a day was being pumped from the Jus Dam to the Durian Tunggal Dam to stabilise the water supply which was almost at a critical level.
 
The heatwave across the Causeway had also prompted Singapore’s Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli to speak about his “personal worry” a few days ago that the extreme weather patterns due to climate change would pose new challenges to Singapore’s water sustainability.

This comes as water level in Linggiu Reservoir in Johor rapidly falling to historic lows. As of April 22, the reservoir water level was at 35 per cent — down from 36.9 per cent about 1.5 weeks ago. AGENCIES

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