ASEAN ministers to discuss haze problem

Updated: 2013-06-18 15:00

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Ministers from several ASEAN countries will meet in Malaysia to discuss ways to tackle the return of the haze to the region and the likelihood of it worsening due to the hot and dry weather.

Malaysian Natural Resources and Environment Minister G. Palanivelsaid he would chair a meeting on Aug 20 with his counterparts from Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore and Thailand.

“We will also study several proposals on early fire detection mechanisms through satellite technology and a fire danger rating system,” he said Monday.

He said the National Haze Action Plan would come into action where key departments and agencies would move to handle the fires depending on the different alert levels based on the Air Pollutant Index (API).

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Dr. Ewon Ebin said the ministry was mulling over cloud seeding if dry weather persisted.

Satellite images from the ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre revealed that hot spots in Sumatra had increased from 46 on Friday to 136 on Sunday, while 113 were recorded as of 8.30am yesterday.

The air quality in Malaysia, however, has improved slightly, with four places recording unhealthy levels yesterday compared with six on Sunday.

The API readings showed unhealthy levels for Balok Baru (110) in Pahang and Kemaman (121) in Terengganu with other parts of the country reading good to mode-rate levels.

Under the air quality index, readings of between 0 and 50 are classified as Good, 51 to 100 (Moderate) 101 to 200 (Unhealthy), 201 to 300 (Very Unhealthy) and 300 and above (Hazardous).

In Kuala Terengganu, the levels in Paka were 92 and Kuala Terengganu at 70.

In Nusajaya, Johor Mentri Besar Mohamed Khaled Nordin said the state government would keep the people posted on the matter if the situation worsens.

In Penang, state Environment Department director Hassan Matsaid the API levels on the is-land was 53 yesterday, while visibility in Bayan Lepas, Prai and Butterworth stood at between 9km and 10km.