KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has offered to assist Indonesia to help put out fires in Kalimantan and Sumatera which has seen the return of trans-boundary haze.
Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC) Minister Yeo Bee Yin said there was an urgent need now for Indonesia to tackle the fires in the republic.
As of 4 pm, two locations in the country, Kuching and Sri Aman, were found to be in the ‘very unhealthy’ range of the Air Pollutant Index (API), whereas another nine API stations in Sarawak and Klang Valley were in the ‘unhealthy' range.
Kuching and Sri Aman recorded 248 respectively on the API, while Samarahan (199), Sarikei (154), Sibu (127), Miri (111) in Sarawak as well as Batu Muda (101), Cheras (107), Johan Setia (150), Putrajaya (103) and Nilai (107) in the Klang Valley were in the 'unhealthy' range.
A total of 12 hotspots were detected in Sarawak, 426 in Kalimantan and 350 in Sumatra.
“Hence the urgency now is for Indonesia to extinguish the fires. The government is ready to offer any kind of assistance to help Indonesia to put out fires in both Kalimantan and Sumatera," Yeo said in a statement posted on her Facebook account.
In 1997, in an operation code-named Operation Haze, Malaysia sent firefighters to battle fires raging across Sumatra and Kalimantan. They spent 25 days in the republic’s provinces to bring the fires under control which at its peak in August 1997 reached 37,983 hotspots.
Malaysia also sent firefighters, albeit in smaller numbers in 2005 to fight fires in Indonesia.
Indonesia has early this month deployed more than 9,000 military, police and disaster agency personnel to douse the fires, having declared an emergency in six provinces on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan.
Yeo said MESTECC was also working with Foreign Affairs Ministry to send a diplomatic note to the Indonesian government on the matter.
“The ambassador of Malaysia to Indonesia is scheduled to meet Indonesian government on Monday (today),” she said.
A call would also be arranged by the Malaysian envoy after the meeting for Yeo to speak to her Indonesian counterpart to reiterate the urgency to bring the fires in Indonesian territories under control.
“The government will exhaust all diplomatic channels to raise the urgency to the Indonesian government to act on haze,” she said.
Yeo said the National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA) was also coordinating with MESTECC (through MetMalaysia) and the Royal Malaysian Air Force, and was prepared for cloud-seeding work for temporary relief in hard-hit areas as soon as the situation allowed and there were sufficient clouds.
“However, the fire in Indonesia needs to be put out to solve the root of the haze problem, otherwise the haze will come back after the rain,”
Yeo said the government had, as early as August, raised the trans-boundary haze issue during the 21st Technical Working Group (TWG) and Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) on Trans-boundary Haze Pollution meeting on Aug 6.
The meeting was attended by Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand, where an agreement was reached to monitor and to increase preventive measures to minimise the trans-boundary haze during the current dry spell from August to October.
“Unfortunately, just after a month, the situation of Indonesian fire didn't get better but got worse,” she said, adding that the haze situation was estimated to improve once the monsoon wind direction changed end of September.