PM Najib urges caution as haze worsens in Malaysia

'BE ALERT': Call to limit all outdoor activities and drink more water

KUALA LUMPUR - PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has advised the public to take precautions and limit outdoor activities following the worsening haze situation and dry weather.

"Haze is expected to worsen across Malaysia. Malacca was at alert point yesterday.

"Please limit outdoor activities and drink more water," Najib said on his Twitter account yesterday.

Najib, on his Facebook page, also said health should remain the No. 1 priority for everyone.

The westerly winds and the increase of hot spots in Sumatra, Indonesia, has driven the haze towards the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

As at 7am yesterday, the Department of Environment's website listed five areas -- Malacca city and Bukit Rambai in Malacca, Balok Baru and Indera Mahkota in Pahang, and Kemaman in Terengganu -- that had a high density of pollutants.

Malacca city recorded the "unhealthy" Air Pollutant Index (API) reading of 129, while Bukit Rambai had a reading of 111. Conditions improved after 5pm, when the API readings decreased to 62 and 61 respectively.

It also improved in Indera Mahkota in Pahang, when the API reading dropped from 107 to 99.

However, API levels were still at "unhealthy" levels at 5pm when the haze moved towards the east coast and enveloped Balok Baru (110) and Kemaman (118).

In the Klang Valley, several areas, including Putrajaya, Port Klang, Petaling Jaya and Kuala Selangor, recorded moderate readings in the morning and showed an improvement in the evening.

The API reading is "good" when the reading is between 0 and 50, "moderate" (51 to 100), "unhealthy" (101 to 200), "very unhealthy" (201 to 300), and "hazardous" (above 300).

A satellite image by the ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre showed 138 hot spots in Sumatra, compared with 101 on Saturday and 48 on Friday.

The image also showed a patch of moderate haze along the Straits of Malacca.

The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry said to resolve the haze problem, five countries -- Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Thailand -- would attend the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee meeting on Aug 20 to 21.

The meeting aims to boost regional cooperation and discuss mechanisms to manage transboundary haze pollution.

It will also refine proposed mechanisms in the early detection of peat and forest fires through high-tech satellite and "fire danger rating systems".

The ministry said those found guilty of open burning would be liable to a fine of up to RM500,000 or imprisonment of up to five years, or both. A maximum compound of RM2,000 may also be imposed for each offence.

Indonesian embassy's social and cultural affairs minister-counsellor, Akhmad Daya Handasah Irfan, said meetings had been held between Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia to resolve the haze problem.

He added that the three countries had discussed future plans to curb the problem.

For more haze updates from AsiaOne, click here: