Miri chokes under thick smoke (2019)

BY Azlan Othman

BRUNEI Darussalam experienced slight haze on Monday with the pollutant standard index (PSI) registering at a moderate level of 61 at the Belait District, while the other three districts also recorded good PSI readings.

Good PSI readings ranging from 19-47 were registered, according to the Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation (JASTRe) website.

Across the border in Miri, at the Senadin–Kuala Baram road leading towards Sungai Tujoh checkpoint, visibility was still low due to the thick smoke coming from forest and peat soil fires at Kuala Baram.

Commuters from the sultanate who took advantage of the public holiday heading to Miri on Monday experienced the acrid smell of smoke and residues from burning forest left on their cars and had to drive in low visibility conditions by switching on their front lights while driving.

At 4pm on Monday, the Air Pollutant Index (API) reading in ILP Miri (near Kuala Baram) recorded a very unhealthy reading of 298 while Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Kuala Baram 2 breached hazardous levels at 350.

Hazy condition at Kampong Ayer in Bandar Seri Begawan. – AZLAN OTHMAN

An API reading of between zero to 50 is good, 51 to 100 is moderate, 101 to 200 is unhealthy, 201 to 300 is very unhealthy, while above 300 is considered hazardous. The peat and forest fires which began on August 1 have continued to worsen, with the API index breaching the hazardous level for the first time on August 10.

The Malaysian National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) has been directed to carry out cloud seeding to tackle the haze situation in Miri, Kuala Baram, Sri Aman and Sibu on Monday.

Malaysia’s Department of Environment in a statement to the media at 3pm on Monday said that cloud seeding needed to be conducted in view of the current situation where air quality recorded at SK Kuala Baram 2 and ILP Miri was hazardous and unhealthy.

Meanwhile, Miri Fire and Rescue Department Chief Law Poh Kiong said the API reading at SK Kuala Baram 2 increased significantly due to the wind path which was moving towards the area, Malaysian newspapers reported.

“There are only three hotspots which are at Lot 3709 (near the highway towards Asean Bridge), Lot 3709 (near Hamidah Welfare Complex) and Lot 3709 (near the nursery),” said Law.

According to the Malaysian Meteorological Department website, the weather in Miri will continue to be hazy until August 14. No rain is expected until August 18.

Mirians especially those with health issues were advised to stay indoors as the air quality was very unhealthy and could pose danger to their well-being.

Meanwhile the ASEAN Specialised Meterological Centre last Sunday said scattered showers fell over the Mekong sub-region. In the southern ASEAN region, dry weather persisted. In Sumatra, moderate to dense smoke haze was observed from persistent hotspot clusters in Riau, and isolated hotspots with smoke plumes were also detected in southern Sumatra.

In Kalimantan, moderate to dense smoke haze was also observed from persistent hotspot clusters detected in West Kalimantan (near Pontianak and Singkawang) and Central Kalimantan (near Palangkaraya). In particular, smoke haze from hotspots in West Kalimantan have been blown to western Sarawak by the prevailing southerly winds.

As for the weather and haze outlook, the Centre said for the next few days, rainy weather over the Mekong sub-region is forecast to persist with prevailing winds blowing from the southwest or west. In the southern ASEAN region, dry conditions are expected over many areas. The prevailing winds are forecast to continue blowing from the southeast or southwest. Hotspot activities are also expected to persist under the prevailing dry conditions.

-- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin