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.

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Smoke Gets In My Eyes, Again!

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(The hotspots in Indonesia is a yearly affair and it some how had become “tolerable” when by right it should not be the case. The above when Singapore faced the worst from the slash & burn activities in Indonesia. Image source:

At the beginning of last week, this was reported on the state of haze in Malaysia:-

Malaysian authorities declared a state of emergency Sunday in a southern district where a smoky haze blamed on Indonesian forest fires has triggered one of the country’s worst pollution levels in years.

The worst of the smog has shifted from Singapore to southernmost Malaysia, where noxious fumes have drifted across the sea this past week from Indonesia’s Sumatra island. The Malaysian government’s index for air pollution reached a measurement of 746 early Sunday in the southern district of Muar. It was far above the threshold of 300 for hazardous air quality.

Authorities were issuing instructions for Muar’s residents to remain indoors and for schools to close, Environment Minister G. Palanivel said in a statement on his Facebook page. The district has about 250,000 people, several of whom posted photographs on Twitter showing bridges and buildings enveloped in smog that slashed visibility to barely hundreds of meters (feet).


And since then, some schools in the Klang Valley were closed for a couple of days (my son certainly was not complaining though) with all of us breathing in and out some of the very unhealthy air todate – some spiked more than 400 on the API reading. But thanks to (man made? or perhaps God taking pity on some of us) heavy rain last week and recent days, API readings have gone down to less dangerous levels and things seemed to have come down to a more normal levels (although last Sunday the haze was back). But hopefully despite the clear skies, we will not be forgetting the culprits who caused some of the worse air pollution over some states in Malaysia last week or keeping our silence on preventing similar occurrence in the coming years.

For start, the Indonesian Government have (once again) blamed (and listed) the “Malaysian” firms involved in the opening burning in Sumatra and on paper, the Malaysian Government have asked for proof and urged prosecution against the wrongdoers but it is a big question on whether the Indonesians would be willing to do that. We are talking big players here and a very aggressive prosecution on something that could be tough to prove (as to who started the fire) could back-fire big time – big players may pull out and huge investments may drop. Think about it – if they could prosecute the culprits, they would have done so a long time ago and that would have been the end of the yearly man-made deadly haze, right?

Interestingly whilst this is still being debated between the Governments, the Malaysian firms having plantation interests in Indonesia have come out emphasizing on their zero burn policy and flatly denied that they were the culprits behind the massive haze over Malaysia & Singapore – they are putting the blame on the locals who determined to do it the easy way. That sounds reasonable but is it?

The standard response has been to blame local communities and smallholders in Sumatra for the clear-cutting and slash-and-burn tactics. It is easy to blame the small guys/local farmers/local communities, etc when they are unable to respond in the media.

Yet, an overlay map of Sumatra shows that there is a close correlation between the hotspots (where the burning is taking place) and the concession areas for oil palm plantations and timber.

So, the large companies then engage some of these local communities to clear the land for them – sort of like outsourcing the land-clearing. And then these local communities do it in the easiest or cheapest way possible. Moreover, the local people often do not have the expertise for replanting, which the large companies possess. But because it is the local communities doing the clearing, the large companies are able to wash their hands and pass the buck to the local communities.


And it gets worse if these allegations are true:-

The whole world knows, and has for years, that the haze is not just the product of ‘burning-off’ by a ragtag bunch of small farmers, but wholesale illegal clearance of what’s left of Sumatra’s peat forests by the managements of massive palm-oil plantations.

And that many of these environmental vandals are so-called government-linked corporations which the respective ruling regimes involved are coy about naming because they and their cronies are the principal beneficiaries.


In the end, it goes back to the issue of enforcement and the deploying the best method for clearing the land for plantation.

The issue is serious (at least for me) when you have small kids and old people at home and they start to have breathing difficulties and there is nothing much we could do about it. Mind you, 2 people died from all the haze in Malaysia, courtesy of the idiots in Indonesia taking short cuts to clear the land. One of their Ministers even had the cheek to say that the Singaporeans are acting childish on this (some politicians will remain a moron to the core no matter which country they are from). Perhaps some of you may not have small kids and old people to take care of but then what about your own health concerns in the long run? How long you think you can survive wearing mask when you go out? Don’t you get frustrated, angry and sick at the same? What about the negative impact to the country’s economy especially in the tourism sector – how many tourists you think will be willing to take a long stroll outside if the haze is thick and sickening?  In the end, will the slash & burn buggers compensate for these losses – both the economic and personal losses?


(If there is fire and it cannot be done with simple tools, it is time to look at a more powerful one. One such tool would be the fire-fighting aircraft like the one made by Russia above – it is more effective once coupled with the traditional fire-fighting techniques on the ground. Image source:

The “problem” with the problem is that everyone knows what need to be done. The mysterious part would be on the Governments with all its might, expertise and will-power seems to be powerless when this happens on a yearly basis and one need to ask why the might of the law and almost unlimited resources of the Government have not been used to the fullest scale? Sucking up to the slash & burn offenders does has its limits. Instead of being reactive to the problem, why not be proactive instead? After all, trans boundary air pollution is not something one can hide under the blue carpet.

Enforcement aspect aside (it is all talk and no action here for donkey odd years), let’s start with a beef-up the fire services with a specialize team on the forest & peat fires with superior technology (like early warning systems), tools (such fire-fighting planes) and man-power all paid in advance on a yearly basis from a centralised fund (all donated graciously from all plantation owners)? Why not use the satellite imaginary system to pin-point the start of the peat and use the information to coordinate fire-fighting and enforcement on a more aggressive manner? It can be done if this need to be done.

But before that, the Indonesia Government should start with ratifying the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution is an environmental agreement established in 2002 between all ASEAN nations to reduce haze pollution in Southeast Asia. There should not be any more excuses from the Indonesians, now that the source of the haze is clearly is self made and is in their own back yard.

Time to breathe in and breathe out before the next round of haze is back

Nice But Short-Sighted?

It’s good to be back…but I catch cold once arrived, sigh

(My usual lunch when I was away – the portion was big and it was good but seriously the noodles back in Malaysia is still the best – plenty of “ajinamoto” and much cheaper too. Photos & videos captured on Nokia N8)

And immediately after my return to home, I have been busy with…eating. I lost about 4kg and somehow it seems like events that have been lined up after my return home may make it impossible to keep up with that 4kg lost.

My brother-in-law and his wife celebrated their newborn and the celebration food was heavy – with huge prawns and spicy mutton. Then the next day after a heavy lunch at Pizza Hut, I had to attend my nephew’s birthday in the evening– another round of chicken and mutton on the house. The next day after attending a close relative’s open house lunch which had huge spread, we went to a wedding in the evening. An Indian wedding that is and chicken and mutton would be one of the must have dishes.

Talking about the wedding, from the very start, we were a bit lazy to attend the wedding – and it had nothing to do with the bride or the brides groom. We were not that close but we knew the parents and grandparents rather closely. We were a bit lazy because of the weather – it was raining cats and dogs (you know how bad the rain has been in the last few days) and it was so niceeeee to sleep. But we knew we could not give the wedding a miss – we already done that for the engagement. So, we dragged ourselves to the wedding – it was still raining when we left the house but stopped by the time we reached the wedding hall.

Perhaps due to the rain (or the RM1 parking fees, I don’t know) the cars at the parking lot seemed sparse and I managed to get a good parking spot. I dropped my family off at the entrance before I went off to park the car. The air was cold and surprisingly fresh. I walked into the hall but what caught my eyes was not the crowd but the arch at the entrance litted full of burning lamps.


On the onset, it looks nice – it was not overwhelming as well but who ever had thought of having an arch full of litted lamps at the entrance probably did not think of this dreadful scenario – a large crowd barging in and someone’s clothes (sarees especially) falling on the litted lamp without them realizing it and catching fire. It is almost like walking through an arch of fire. And if you see in the video above, one lady almost get her saree on the fire and thankfully pulled in time.

At the very least, they should have stationed someone to keep an eye on the litted lamps as people walking in and out of the arch. Artistic values is one thing but whenever there is a big crowd, safety should always comes first. But thankfully nothing serious happened and the wedding continued without any other incidents.

Overall, it was a good day – with additional load of the delicious food from the dinner, of course.

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Unexpected Reporting

After couple of months of blogging, I realised that one of the essential items that a Blogger should have with him / her, all time, is a digital camera (I guess after the issue of the Squatgate, camera phone is also now acceptable) . It is because you will never know when you will be at the right place and at the right time to capture certain moments in camera.

One good example is TV Smith’s post titled “God is also a cartographer

A fire broke out at a shop near my house early in the morning yesterday (it was still dark then) and I was the only guy snapping up photos (looked silly at first) when the firemen arrived. Although I was at the right time and place to take the picture, I was however did not had a good camera to catch the moments – see the “artistic looking” picture below (if you can see what’s happening in the picture, I salute you).

There was a couple of people surrounded me when I was snapping the pictures (felt like a real reporter but with a “chekai” camera) and one of them told me that he has a camera on his handphone but he does not know how to use it (duh, did he heard about the Squategate?). The fire broke out at one of the shops selling lighting and chandeliers (light bulbs going off in a fire acts & sounds like a mini bomb going off)

The police was the first to be on the scene to control the situation, followed by the owner (I am guessing here – the guy arrived in Toyota Harrier and wanted to go near to the shop despite everyone shouting to him to stay away. Something exploded in his shop and he came running back to everyone’s amusement). The last to arrive was the Bomba, who by the way, missed the place and droved straight pass the fire & the big crowd (the police had to chase the fire-truck – can you imagine that?)

Anyway, by the time, Bomba came, the fire was still under control, so they just splashed some water to doze off the fire – they were fast & professional on this. As there were no major incidents (like someone fainting or people trapped in the blazing fire, sigh), I left for work (I was already late by 15 minutes – big difference if you are staying in the Klang Valley)

When I showed the photos to my wife, she finally understood why I carry my camera almost everywhere we go, most of the time. After all, you will never know when you will be at the right place and at the right time.

(Filed under Tag: Events)

Fire Drills – How serious are you?

(No matter how old I am, I am still fascinated by the sound and looks of a fire truck. Picture – Malaysian Fire Trucks – source: )

We had a fire drill yesterday – it was a yearly event at the building where I am working. The fire drill went smoothly and like a clock work.

The fire bell rang, we walked down the staircase calmly to the designated area (first timers were excited despite walking 8 floors down), the fire truck & fire bikes arrived within reasonable time (although we calculated that a pizza delivery bike would reach much earlier to the manoeuvrability of the “kapcai” bike & “nothing to fear” rider) and acted the fire fighting drills (actually simulated assisting someone who had fainted due to “smoke”). The fire drill was a success.

The question is – do we take fire drills seriously? Some treated it as a mere inconvenience to their daily work. Others said that it is not the real thing so it’s ok with them.

In fact, when we were at the designated area waiting for the fire-truck, I saw quite a number of them still in their offices, doing their work as usual. Some were happily watching the “action” below from their windows. Many are oblivious to the sound of the fire bell and fire truck siren. There is a saying “practice makes perfect” and I think that we should be serious about the fire drill because it can save our live when there is a real fire.

In the last 2 years, only once we had a real fire (it was due to a short-circuit in an electrical application in the next block). The fire bells went off almost immediately and guess what the reaction in my office was? At first, we were working as usual, thinking that the building maintenance must be testing the bells. One or two guys, who were very curious (one of the “ka-po-chi” one was me lah), casually walked towards the windows to check. When we opened the window, we saw thick smoke in the opposite building. Only then, we quickly rushed out but there was many who stayed on, saying that it was safe to be in as the fire is only at the next block.

I was amazed at how relaxed these guys were as the usual & normal instinct is to save ourselves.

Things could have gone worse. The fire could have spread fast and blocked the escape routes. They could have been overcome with thick smoke. Anything could have happened then but luckily for us, the fire & rescue department was fast enough to control the fire. Ok, may in that instant, the danger was not there as the fire on the other block but a fire is still a fire and the fire bell should not be ignored (especially when it is ringing just 50 meters where we are sitting).

We must always remember that fire can be started by short-circuit or arson or even by a terrorist attack but what is important for us to know what to do during the emergency.
(Filed under Tag: Opinion)

Haze – The “Real” cause of it

Everyone knows that the source of the haze – it is from opening burning and Indonesia is the biggest culprit of all. It is not a secret. Everyone knows. But do you want to know the real cause of haze? Poor farmer in Indonesia? Nah, you are wrong!

This is what I think is the real cause. It is sabotage by Indonesians (likely including the Indonesian Government) against Malaysia (and Singapore). Simple and plain. They were clearly upset when we drove out a large number of illegal immigrants from the country. They were also upset with losing Sipadan & Ligitan to Malaysia after ICJ found for Malaysia and now Malaysia claiming another island. So, when Indonesia farmers commit open burning (possibly intentionally), the Indonesian Government decided to close one eye because they have nothing to lose. It is a sort of punishment to Malaysia. Then why else they will allow such an environmental disaster to go on for such a long time and on regular basis.

If your neighbour son was committing open burning which causes the smoke to be blown to your house and causes your children to be in poor health for weeks, you will obviously confront your neighbour. Can you imagine how you will react if your neighbour just says sorry but continue to allow his son to do burning? You will be furious right? You may even decided to beat up your neighbour and his son to stop such inconsiderate act.

Guess what Malaysia Government decided to do? They decided to “chicken” out on the matter (there are already some chickens in the Cabinet – hint: AP issue). They decided that the rights of foreign tourist and to a large extend, Indonesian are more important than the health of Malaysians who voted them into Government.

They made it worse! The DPM came out with a rather insulting statement when he said the Government has no plans to release the API reading. He said “We will monitor the situation and give general advice to the people”. The fuck he will. It’s like saying to your children who are falling sick (due to the smoke) that nothing is wrong. Daddy knows better.

The truth is Malaysians are not stupid to disregard the haze which is “choking” us. Why refuse to release the API reading? Afraid of having negative impact on the tourism industry? Look out the window, Najib! Which tourists in their right mind want to spend the holidays in a blanket of “man-made” smoke? If you are thinking that those tourist will have the same mentality as you are, then I hope God have mercy on you!

I can see the same fiasco happening when a certain “smart” Minister also refused the AP listing but later was forced to back down. Reading on Wong Sulong’s comments today reflects much of Malaysian’s thoughts on the issue. It is making me furious.

My conclusion: Threaten Indonesians that Malaysia will react strongly on issue by economic sanctions (and really act on it if Indonesians ignores the threat) and see whether the Indonesia Government will indeed enforce their so-call environment laws. Malaysia having nothing to lose except the relationship of an inconsiderate neighbour.

(Picture source: email from my sister. The picture taken from her office in Klang)