Malaysia bans open-burning to reduce effects of harmful haze

MALAYSIAN authorities on Wednesday moved to ban all forms of open burning as part of efforts to cut the harmful effects of the haze.

Norlin Jaafar, director-general of Malaysia’s Department of Environment, said in a statement to the media that she was strictly enforcing the ban on open burning under the Environment Quality Act 1974, except for cremations and religious rituals. The prohibition will take effect until the end of the monsoon season.

Violators will be slapped of up to RM500,000 fine and prison terms not exceeding five years per offense.

“All parties are requested not to conduct open burning, or allow entry or trespass into their property and premises by irresponsible quarters that lead to open burning, either intentional or otherwise,” she said.

Earlier, the Department of Environment, citing the Air Pollution Index (API), said that 21 areas in Malaysia are considered “unhealthy.” This has also prompted Rompin, Pahang to be placed under the “very unhealthy” range.

In the afternoon, API readings showed Rompin stood 228, beyond the threshold of 200 for the “very unhealthy” air quality.

Nilai, Negri Sembilan followed with 155; the Klang Valley and surrounding regions particularly the center of Putrajaya at 152; Shah Alam at 143; Petaling Jaya at 139; Cheras at 137; Klang and Batu Muda at 134; and Banting at 130.

In the southern part in Negri Sembilan and Melaka, readings ranged from 126 in Seremban to Bandaraya Melaka’s 103.

Likewise, the Sarawak Education Department announced earlier that it has resumed school operations which were ordered suspended yesterday following the haze.

Energy, Science Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin had said the current dry spell and monsoonal winds have exacerbated the situation in Malaysia.

Yeo said the federal government will attempt cloud seeding to mitigate once this is possible and continue urging Jakarta to accept help in combating the raging fires within its borders.

Malaysia has accused Indonesia over the haze for its forest fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra that are polluting the air regionally.

Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri James Masing called on the international community to penalize Indonesia over the matter.

He also said Putrajaya should bill the Indonesian government for the 500,000 face masks sent to Sarawak.

“Until they suffer economically, they will not take our complaints seriously with their year after year of blanketing the region,” he said when responding to the hazy conditions in Southeast Asia.