Indonesia Fire Hotspots & Haze

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Indonesia Fire Hotspots Kalimantan

(No smoke without fire – the problem is haze does not respect borders. The hot spots are mainly emitting from Indonesia. Image source: ASMC)

It is becoming unbearable in the last few days – the quality of air in the country especially within the Klang Valley.

Johan Setia in Selangor was “very unhealthy” according to the Environment Department’s (DoE) Air Pollution Index this morning, the sole location in Malaysia to be rated so after the smog subsided in Rompin, Pahang last night.

Johan Setia recorded an API reading of 213 at 10am today, having entered the “very unhealthy” band at 5am. Elsewhere in Selangor, air quality remained in the “unhealthy” range, with the worst being in Kuala Selangor (139), Klang (136), and Shah Alam (132). (Link)

Interestingly the country where the source of haze is apparent is denying it:-

The Indonesian government has again denied that the haze in Malaysia was caused by hotspots in the republic, claiming that the smog affecting Kuala Lumpur originating from Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia.

Jakarta-based news outfit Tempo.co quoted its Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya Bakar as accusing Malaysia of covering up relevant information and insisted that not all smog came from Indonesia.

“There is information that they covered up. Really, the smoke entering Malaysia, to Kuala Lumpur, it came from Sarawak, then from Peninsular Malaysia, and also some from West Kalimantan.

“The Malaysian government should have been objective in its explanation,” she was quoted saying.

She also denied that transboundary haze exists, claiming that there was only one hour when the winds moved in the direction of north-west instead.

“Winds moved from Kalimantan and Sarawak, West Kalimantan, and Peninsular Malaysia. Don’t just say they were from Indonesia,” she added.

Indonesia’s denial comes despite the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre’s (ASMC) warning that haze will continue to affect western parts of Peninsular Malaysia and western Sarawak, as hotspots are expected to persist in Sumatra and Kalimantan, Indonesia.

(Source)

The Indonesian Minister say Malaysia is covering up information but the satellite surveillance of the haze is showing otherwise. Maybe she meant to say that hotpots also exist in Malaysia and not Indonesia alone and so should not blame Indonesia alone. That would sound more reasonable.

But if it is not, then the data from ASMC – Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre shows otherwise. Is the good Minister saying that the real scientific & satellite data is not complete?  Our environment minister Yeo Bee Yin even clarified that based on the information published by the ASMC showed 474 hotspots in Kalimantan and 387 hotspots in Sumatera on Tuesday. By comparison, there was just seven hotspots in the whole of Malaysia.

And one needs to keep in mind the role of ASMC:-

The main roles of ASMC are to monitor and assess land and forest fires, as well as the occurrence of transboundary smoke haze for the ASEAN region; and to conduct seasonal and climate predictions for the ASEAN region (Link)

In the same case of the Amazon forest fire, the countries where the fire hotspots occurring will need to first acknowledge that there are hotspots happening in the country and why such hotspots are happening – is it because of the dry season? Or it is due to human activities?

Bernama reported that more than 42,000ha of land (forest and plantation) have been burned since January, with hundreds of hectares reportedly still burning in some provinces in Indonesia. More than 6,000 firefighters, also assisted by police and military personnel, have been deployed to put out the fire in several areas in Riau, Jambi, Pekanbaru and Kalimantan (Link).

Once facts of hotspots have been recognised, the authorities needs to figure out the resources to fight these hotspots and with one serious consideration – never refuse neighboring countries help to fight the fire hotspots. Brazil made this mistake as well. It has to be as it is as it is affecting the neighbors as well.

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