Peninsular haze not from us, says Indonesian met agency

PETALING JAYA: Indonesia’s meteorology agency has rejected a Malaysian accusation of smoke haze in the country from fires in Indonesia, and said “there is no transboundary haze as some foreign media reported”.

The agency’s deputy of meteorology, Mulyono R Prabowo, was quoted by the Tempo online newspaper today as having confirmed that the rebuttal is based on satellite data monitoring and analysis.

However, the Indonesian claim is contradicted by the Asean specialised meteorological centre in Singapore which has reported that transboundary smoke haze from Sumatra and Kalimantan was being blown towards Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak.

“Unhealthy” air quality from smoke haze was reported by Malaysia’s Environment Department today in several areas in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Klang and Negeri Sembilan.

In Sarawak, Kuching, Sri Aman, Sarikei and Samarahan have suffered “very unhealthy” air quality for several days and schools have been ordered to close if air quality levels rose above 200 API points.

Today’s map of the haze situation from the Asean specialised meteorological centre, with blue lines indicating prevailing winds, brown portions denoting smoke haze, and red dots for hotspots of open burning. (ASMC pic)

Malaysian officials have said a diplomatic note would be sent to the Indonesian government calling for urgent action to quell open burning. Cloud-seeding efforts would also be undertaken to create rain but environment minister Yeo Bee Yin said the fires in Indonesia must be put out first “otherwise, the haze will come back after (the) rain”.

She also offered the government’s assistance in helping Jakarta put out fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

The Indonesian official, Mulyono, said that satellite data showed at least 2,510 hotspots in Southeast Asia from Sept 4-8 . Hotspots were detected in Malaysia, The Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, Timor Leste and Thailand. But the agency did not detect transboundary haze from Sumatra to Peninsular Malaysia.

However, figures from the Asean centre contradict the Indonesian data.

The Asean centre said there was “a significant build-up of smoke haze in Riau and Jambi”, and some of the smoke haze was blown by the prevailing winds across the Strait of Malacca to western parts of Peninsular Malaysia. Smoke haze from hotspot clusters in West Kalimantan were blown by the prevailing winds to western Sarawak and the adjacent South China Sea area.

The Asean centre has forecast dry weather over many areas in Sumatra and Kalimantan, with the hotspot and haze situation in these two areas expected to persist. “With the prevailing winds blowing from the southeast or southwest, transboundary haze may continue to affect surrounding areas including western Sarawak and western parts of Peninsular Malaysia,” it added.

Chart of daily hotspot activity, reported by the Asean meteorological centre.