KL seeks answers and action plan from Jakarta on haze

“We are frustrated that we have to suffer every year, but all the government and other countries do is just talk, there is no real action”

Elizabeth Looi
The Straits Times
Publication Date : 22-10-2010

Malaysia moved to seek answers from Indonesia as haze continued to shroud parts of two states along the Malacca Strait, keeping some schools closed.

Natural resources and environment minister Douglas Uggah Embas said he has contacted his Indonesian counterpart to ask for action to be taken, while a department of environment official has also written to her counterpart.

Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said Kuala Lumpur was seeking “more cooperation” from Jakarta and was also prepared to provide help, including in the form of logistics, to tackle the problem.

“According to the reports we’ve received, the haze originates from there (Indonesia),” he was reported as saying by Bernama. “We are not simply making accusations, but we want action before the haze spreads and becomes more detrimental to Malaysia.”

The pressure from the Malaysian government came as the haze shrouded parts of Johor and Malacca on Tuesday and Wednesday, forcing schools to be closed in Johor’s coastal town of Muar.

The air quality in Muar reached hazardous levels on Wednesday, with the air pollutant index (API) hitting 432.

An API reading that exceeds 301 is considered hazardous. A 0-50 reading is healthy; 100-200, unhealthy; and 210-300, very unhealthy.

On Thursday, the air quality over Johor and Malacca improved, with the API dropping to moderate levels of below 100 in the two states.

The government, however, is playing it safe, and has ordered schools in Muar to remain closed until the situation is safe. It also distributed 10,000 face masks in Muar Thursday, and has alerted ships in the Malacca Strait of the poor visibility.

Other parts of Malaysia – including Kuala Lumpur – have not been affected so far.

Every year, Malaysia and Singapore are affected by the haze caused by the burning of forests in neighbouring Indonesia, especially during the dry spell, prompting them to press Jakarta for action.

Datuk Douglas noted that Indonesia had presented an action plan to counter the open burning at an Asean ministerial-level meeting on haze in Brunei last month.

Department of environment director-general Rosnani Ibrahim also told The Straits Times that she had on Tuesday and Wednesday written to her Indonesian counterparts, both at official and ministerial levels.

Indonesian officials have yet to respond, however.

The apparent lack of action has angered Malaysians, who also blame their own government for not pushing the Indonesian authorities harder.

“We are frustrated that we have to suffer every year, but all the government and other countries do is just talk, there is no real action,” lamented a Malacca resident who wanted to be known only as Foo.