Open burning worsening air quality in Sarawak

Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department director Khirudin Drahman.

KUCHING: Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department director Khirudin Drahman says irresponsible people are indulging in open burning despite warnings, worsening the air quality in the state.

He said there were still cases of fires being deliberately set.

“Some fires occurred again after we had put them out,” he told reporters at a press conference here today.

He urged the Sarawak Department of Environment and the Natural Resources and Environment Board to take action against those still conducting open burning activities.

Khirudin said efforts to put out fires in Sri Aman and Betong are still being carried out although the water bombing operations, which were supposed to put out the forest and peatland fires in both areas, had to be postponed as the aircraft had to undergo service and maintenance.

He said they had requested assistance from Kuching, Sarikei, Bitangor and Kanowit fire stations to help douse the fire in Sri Aman.

“The water bombing operations must be conducted simultaneously with the ground operations so that the fire can be put out effectively.

“Once the plane is good to go, we’ll be going full swing on Saturday and Sunday. We have also requested cooperation from the marine police to control the water source intake,” he said.

It was reported earlier that two hotspots were detected in Sri Aman.

However, much of the haze is believed to be brought by winds from Kalimantan.

As of 3pm today, an air pollutant index (API) reading of 211 was recorded in Sri Aman, 266 in Kuching, 221 in Samarahan, 238 in Sarikei, 246 in Sibu and 210 in Mukah.

An API reading of 0-50 shows good air quality, 51-100 moderate, 101-200 unhealthy, 201-300 very unhealthy, and over 300 hazardous.