Haze red alert: Muar API hits 383 – Johor, Malacca, Singapore worst hit
It’s something in common that both Malaysia and Singapore would rather not have – haze that’s hit hazardous levels at both ends of the causeway. Just like the Singaporeans, Malaysians down south are getting the worst of the choking smoke caused by fires in Sumatra, Indonesia.
The worst hit was Muar, Johor. As of 11a.m, the air pollution index (API) there shot up to 383, which is rated dangerous. Kota Tinggi, also in Johor, recorded a very unhealthy level of 232. Levels above 301 are hazardous. The Department of Environment (DOE) released the figures this afternoon, identifying four other areas experiencing unhealthy levels – Pasir Gudang (199) and Larkin Lama (181), and Malacca town (137) and Bukit Rambai (119).
All afternoon session schools in Muar were ordered to close until further notice by Johor’s education director Mohd Nor A. Ghani. According to Ghani, a directive immediately goes out when the reading hits 300. Yesterday, Malacca’s government had urged all schools in the state to stop outdoor activities while Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam announced that operation rooms would be set up in places where the API exceeded 200.
The DOE has already banned open burning in Selangor, Johor and Malacca. The DOE lists API levels from 51 to 100 as moderate, 101 to 200 as unhealthy, and 201 to 300 as very unhealthy. Levels above 301 are hazardous. Most of the hotspots are in Sumatra’s Riau province, an area that is right across the Straits of Malacca and opposite Malacca, Johor and Singapore.
Like Muar, Singapore was badly hit. It experienced an all-time API high of 371 as of 1pm today. Meanwhile, Reuter reports that Singapore’s air quality deteriorated to the extent that some businesses and travel were disrupted. Air traffic controllers gave more time for aircraft between taking off and landing at Changi Airport, a major aviation hub, because of poor visibility.
Work at several Singapore construction sites slowed with few workers seen outdoors and fast-food operator McDonald’s suspended its delivery service across the city-state. An Indonesian airport that serves as a base for some of Chevron Corp’s Indonesian oilfields was shut because of the haze. Singapore called on Indonesia to do something.
“No country or corporation has the right to pollute the air at the expense of Singaporeans’ health and well-being,” Singapore’s Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said on his Facebook page. Balakrishnan said Singapore had sent officials to an emergency haze meeting in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. “We will insist on definitive action,” he said.
The illegal burning of forest in Sumatra, to the west of Singapore and Malaysia, to clear land for palm oil plantations is a chronic problem, particularly during the June to September dry season. Singapore, which prides itself on its clean environment and usually enjoys clear skies, saw its air quality deteriorate to unhealthy levels on Monday.
The top PSI readings in Singapore over the past two days have exceeded the peak of 226 reached in 1997 when smog from Indonesian fires disrupted shipping and air travel across Southeast Asia. Indonesian officials have tried to deflect blame by suggesting companies based in Singapore may be partly to blame for the fires. Singapore has said it wants Indonesia to provide maps of land concessions so it can act against firms that allow slash-and-burn land clearing.
Singapore-based palm oil companies with land concessions in Indonesia include Wilmar International Ltd, Golden Agri-Resources Ltd and First Resources Ltd. All three said yesterday they had “zero burning” policies and used only mechanical means to clear land. Cargill, whose Asia-Pacific regional hub is in Singapore, said there were no fires on its plantations in South Sumatra and West Kalimantan.
Source: Yahoo News Malaysia – http://my.news.yahoo.com/api-in-muar-at-337-danger-level-as-031143844.html