CHING: A total of seven hotspots were detected in Sarawak today while the hotspot count in Kalimantan was 121.
Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) Sarawak controller Peter Sawal said the hazy situation, although not serious, could persist until October.
He said based on the Malaysian Meteorological Department forecast, Sarawak is likely to experience warmer and drier than average weather until the end of the month, with intermittent rain expected from September.
The Air Pollutant Index (API) readings for Kuching, Samarahan, Serian, Mukah, Bintulu, and Sibu are still at moderate level (below 100). The rest in the interior as well as northern part still enjoy good weather, he told reporters after a press conference for the 10th Better Air Quality Conference here yesterday.
While NREB is monitoring the situation closely, he said the high number of hotspots detected across the border coupled with the wind direction towards Sarawak would see towns near the border experiencing higher API readings.
Peter also pointed out that NREB has stopped the issuance of open burning permits.
Since early July, we have not issued any permit for open burning.
So if there are burnings at plantation areas, obviously that is illegal and we will take action, he said.
Peter also reminded local farmers to be vigilant and control open burning activities as there have been a few incidents reported in Sibu, Mukah, Sri Aman, and Betong.
Our officers have been to the ground to advise local farmers. But if burning needs to be done, it must be monitored to prevent the fire from spreading because there were incidents
whereby the fire spreads to nearby plantation areas and affected a large area of the oil palm plantation. So some plantations have suffered because of that, he said.
He added that over the past two years, the number of illegal burning cases have significantly decreased.
I think people are now more aware of the seriousness and consequences as in the act does not only affect the community but also their integrity, he said.
More importantly, they cannot escape from the law because we have a digitised map and through satellite, we can detect and pinpoint any burning activity whether outside or inside development areas.
This has been successfully done.
He warned that those caught and found guilty of conducting illegal open burning could be slapped with a compound of up to RM30,000 or prosecuted in court.
On the dry weather’s impact on water reserves, he said there have been no report of water stress for now.
There are various agencies coordinated to manage this problem including Rural Water Supply Department. In any incident of water stress, or low water level or supply, potable water will be supplied as needed, he said.
Source: SARAWAK GOVERNMENT