No quick solution to haze woes

KUALA LUMPUR - There is unlikely to be a quick solution to the haze issue anytime soon. This is because the Indonesian government refuses to take the matter to the ASEAN Secretariat, said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel.

He said Indonesia preferred to have a "government to government" meeting with Malaysia and Singapore, rather than taking the matter to the ASEAN Secretariat.

Palanivel said he was informed by his Indonesian counterpart, Dr Balthasar Kambuaya, that a decision on the matter would be made only after the Indonesian parliament meets in December, either this year or next.

Indonesia has yet to ratify the ASEAN Agreement on Haze Transboundary Pollution brokered in 2002.

"We are ready to provide all the support needed to them, especially the cloud seeding planes, but we will have to wait for the Indonesian government to make a decision."

Palanivel added that the haze situation in Kedah and Penang improved with a reduction in the API reading yesterday.

He is, however, still concerned that the haze situation may worsen.

"I don't want the schools to be closed again. I am worried that it will affect students sitting their examinations," he said after opening the National Utility Mapping Seminar 2013, themed Utility Mapping -- Driving Sustainable Development, here yesterday.

A total of 300 participants attended the seminar organised by the Survey and Mapping Department.

Meanwhile, the Department of Environment (DoE) said all 51 air monitoring stations nationwide recorded healthy and moderate readings.

"The public is advised to avoid carrying out all forms of open burning, except for cremation, ritual burning, charcoal barbeque grills and the flaring of gas.

"They are also advised to report such activities to the fire and rescue department," it said.

As of 5pm, Air Pollutant Index reading in Sungai Petani, Langkawi and Alor Star showed moderate readings compared with the previous day, when readings shot up to unhealthy levels.

The readings improved from the unhealthy mark (92 and 82) respectively on Wednesday.

Air quality in Seberang Prai, Penang also improved yesterday with an API reading of 63 compared with the day before, which recorded an API of 102.

Palanivel said the seminar was aimed at raising awareness of the need to have an organised and proper underground utility mapping system for all the agencies.

He said the government realised the importance of having an organised, comprehensive and updated underground utility infrastructure to ensure steady development of the country.