BRUNEI - Air quality in Brunei took a turn for the worse yesterday as the Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) soared overnight to nearly 100 in most of the country.
The Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation (JASTRe) said in a statement the PSI readings recorded at monitoring stations across the Sultanate were "relatively higher than normal". However, air pollution levels were still considered "moderate" as the PSI readings were below 100.
It is anticipated that Brunei will continue to experience hazy conditions for the next few days if fires continue to burn unabated in neighbouring Kalimantan and Sarawak.
Belait recorded the highest PSI reading of 98, followed by Temburong (94) and Tutong (92). Meanwhile, Brunei-Muara saw a moderate PSI reading of 65 at press time yesterday.
The haze in Brunei is being blamed on smoke from fires in 231 hotspots seen in satellite imagery in central and west Borneo.
A PSI reading below 50 is considered "good", while a PSI reading of between 51 to 100 is considered "moderate". A PSI reading of between 101 and 200 is considered "unhealthy", while a PSI reading of 201 is considered "very unhealthy". A PSE reading over 300 is "hazardous".
When PSI readings are moderate, the public may experience minor health effects such as coughing, eye irritation and a running nose. The Ministry of Health has advised children with asthma or lung or heart disease to minimise the amount of time they spend on physical activity outdoors until air pollution levels in Brunei improve.
Meanwhile, horizontal visibility at Brunei International Airport (BIA) dropped from more than 10km on Friday to 3km yesterday.
The Metrological Department said the prolonged dry spell in the country the BIA Meteorological Station has recorded no rainfall since last Saturday has contributed to the haze.
The department further stated that the dry conditions in the country are normal during the first half of the southwest monsoon season, which affects parts of Southeast Asia.
Based on the latest Regional Haze Map, Sumatra is continuing to produce moderate to dense smoke, which is being carried by prevailing southwesterly winds to parts of the South China Sea.
Borneo, West Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia have also been affected, with PSI readings reaching "hazardous" levels.
JASTRe said it is closely monitoring the situation and will keep the public informed about air quality in the Sultanate through its website at www.env.gov.bn or Radio Televisyen Brunei (RTB).
Ground surveillance carried out by JASTRe over the past several days found that open burning is rampant throughout the country, especially in the evenings.
The public have been urged to refrain from lighting fires outdoors, which could worsen air quality in the country.
The public can make complaints about smoke and get more information about air quality at JASTRe's 144 hotline or by calling 2241262 (extension 405) during office hours.
The public can also access PSI readings online from JASTRe's website, while the latest weather updates are available on the Brunei Weather (Brunei WX) mobile application and the Metrological Department's website at www.met.gov.bn.
Further health information and advice can be obtained by calling the Health Line at 145 or by visiting the Ministry of Health's website at www.moh.gov.bn.