Indonesia turns down Malaysian help to curb fires

PETALING JAYA: Indonesia has turned down an offer for Malaysian help to deal with forest fires as it is taking intensive efforts to tackle the problem, said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

Wan Juniadi was quoted in Malay Mail Online saying that the Indonesians have been building up expertise and equipment to deal with forest fires since last year.

“But we are monitoring the situation,” he was quoted as saying after being given a briefing by his Indonesian counterpart.

Expressing concern over the number of fires, which have increased dramatically in a short space of time, Wan Junaidi said that two Indonesian air force aircraft were conducting water bombing in central Kalimantan, and one Bell 412 helicopter with a (bucket) had been sent to west Kalimantan as of Thursday.

Other efforts taken by the Indonesians were the setting up of a command centre in Jakarta to monitor, control fire and patrols in six fire prone provinces in Riau, South Sumatra, Jamni and west, central and east Kalimantan.

In Malaysia, Wan Junaidi said 2,230 incidents of open burning were recorded by the Department of Environment since January. So far, 207 compound fines and 50 warning letters were issued to those responsible for open burning. Fifteen cases are pending in courts.

Most towns across Malaysia recorded “moderate” air quality levels yesterday, with Cheras the unhealthiest reading at 97 followed by Ipoh (90) and Batu Muda, Kuala Lumpur (72) and Port Klang (70).

Air quality in Sabah and Sarawak was relatively healthy with the highest readings being recorded in Sibu (53) and Kota Kinabalu (52).

API readings of zero to 50 are healthy, 51 to 100 are moderate, 101 to 200 are considered unhealthy, 201 to 300 are in the very unhealthy level and 301 and above are hazardous to health.