Group questions hazy skies in Penang

The Melaka Strait, seen from the coast of Tanjung Bungah.

GEORGE TOWN: Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) has urged environment regulators to explain the recent haze in Penang which it says has had an impact on visibility in the state.

SAM president Meenakshi Raman said while air pollutant index (API) readings by the Department of Environment (DoE) showed “moderate” numbers, the situation on the ground appeared otherwise.

“With the rather high temperatures these past few weeks in the region of 30 degrees Celsius and above, and with no rain, the haze seems to have come back.

“Have forest fires started again in Indonesia or are there fires happening in the northern region which are contributing to the haze?”

She also asked what measures are being taken by the energy, science, technology and climate change ministry as well as the state authorities.

Checks by FMT at the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre showed hotspots in Permatangsiantar and several other Indonesian towns.

In the country, hotspots were also revealed close to the Lojing Highlands in Kelantan and the northern interior of Perak.

DoE’s API numbers on the PM2.5 scale show Gelugor at 74 and Balik Pulau at 82 as of 11am.

An API reading of 101 to 200 is classified as “unhealthy” while numbers of between 201 and 300 are “very unhealthy”. Readings of 51 to 100 are considered “moderate” while 0 to 50 is considered “good”.

PM2.5 are fine particles measuring 3% of a human hair which can enter the circulatory system. They have been closely linked to heart attacks and can trigger asthma and respiratory problems, according to a Journal of the American Medical Association study.