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KL smog caused by local fires, not Indonesian haze: Minister

KUALA LUMPUR — The haze enveloping Kuala Lumpur since mid-week was due to peat and forest fires in several areas on the outskirts of the capital city, said a Malaysian minister on Friday (April 22), amid worries that the annual transboundary haze might be back.

KL smog caused by local fires, not Indonesian haze: Minister

Haze enveloped downtown Kuala Lumpur in recent weeks. Photo: AP

KUALA LUMPUR — The haze enveloping Kuala Lumpur since mid-week was due to peat and forest fires in several areas on the outskirts of the capital city, said a Malaysian minister on Friday (April 22), amid worries that the annual transboundary haze might be back.

Malaysia’s Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the fires in Kuala Langat and Sepang in the state of Selangor were under control. But the situation was aggravated by the hot and dry weather, causing the pollutants to float in the air, he added.

“Currently, there is no influence of trans-boundary haze because the country is still in the inter-monsoon season that is expected to last until mid-May,” national news agency Bernama quoted him as saying early on Friday morning. “The fires are being doused by the Fire and Rescue Department, and they are under control.” 

Transboundary haze caused by widespread fires in Indonesia blanketed the region from September to November last year and affected tens of millions of people.

The Pollutant Standards Index breached 2,000 in Central Kalimantan at one point, forcing affected Indonesian families to flee their homes for other cities. In Malaysia, schools were closed when the air quality reached unhealthy levels across many Malaysian states.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo had pledged to take tough action to tackle the annual haze problem, ­including issuing a moratorium on new permits for oil palm plantations. He had also vowed to sack local military and police chiefs for uncontrolled fires in their provinces.

In recent days, large parts of the Klang Valley — which includes ­Malaysia’s capital city Kuala Lumpur, the country’s administrative capital of Putrajaya and much of Selangor — were shrouded in haze.

Port Klang, located in Selangor, registered an unhealthy reading on Malaysia’s Air Pollutant Index (API) on Friday. Earlier this week, the ­areas of Batu Muda, Cheras and Petaling Jaya — all located in the Klang Valley — registered unhealthy API readings, though they returned to moderate levels on Friday. An API reading of ­between zero and 50 indicates good air quality. API readings above 100 are considered unhealthy.

“The haze is really smelly and is giving me a headache, even though I’ve closed all the windows in my house. When is this problem ever ­going to be solved?” said ­Selangor ­resident ­Anisah Shurfa.

The hazy conditions prompted ­Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to urge the public to exercise caution and reduce outdoor activities. 

“I notice that the haze has returned in several areas. I hope everybody will be careful, especially those who work or have to be outdoors. Wear masks and such. Outdoor physical activities, especially for the elderly and children, should be reduced in areas with bad haze,” he wrote on Twitter. AGENCIES

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