Triple whammy as haze hits the Klang Valley

A view of the Kuala Lumpur city centre covered by haze in Kuala Lumpur March 3, 2014.

PETALING JAYA - First, it was weeks of a dry spell. Then came the water shortage. Now, Klang Valley residents have to contend with the haze as well.

Despite a brief shower in the evening, yesterday's air pollutant index (API) reading shot up to unhealthy levels in five places in the Klang Valley with Port Klang registering 136 (API of 100 to 200 is categorised as unhealthy) at 6pm.

The other places include SeremĀ­ban (112) in Negri Sembilan, Shah Alam (101) and Banting (117) in Selangor while Seri Manjung, Perak, recorded 109.

According to the Department of Environment (DOE) website, several areas registered moderate air quality (API 51 to 100) as at 6pm. They were Batu Muda (92) in Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya (100) and Kuala Selangor (98) in Selangor.

Other states that recorded moderate to unhealthy air readings included Taiping (100) and Ipoh (83) in Perak, and in Muar, Johor (97), Prai in Penang (94), and Sungai Petani, Kedah (99).

Meteorological Department national weather centre director Muhammad Helmi Abdullah said it was not unusual for parts of Malaysia to experience hazy conditions during this time of the year, as it was the dry season due to the end of the north-east monsoon season.

He said, however, that this year's haze was worse than last year's and attributed it to open burning, forest fires and peat fires.

"The haze has nothing to do with our neighbours. It is not transboundary haze but our own doing," he said.

He also said there was neither sufficient rain nor strong winds to help clear or disperse haze particles during long periods of dry weather.

In a statement yesterday, the DOE stated that the current moderate haze that the country is experiencing is due to land and forest fires in several states including Selangor, Perak, Pahang, Johor, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu.

The department said that the current hot and dry weather conditions caused suspended dust particles to accumulate in the air, which resulted in haze.

Additionally, the department noted that various pollutant sources such as industrial emissions, motor vehicles and earthworks contributed to the increasing API levels.

The DOE said the peninsula is not expected to receive much rain until mid-March.

"However, rain and thunderstorms can occur in the afternoon and early evening in the interior of Perak, Selangor and Pahang," it said.

Based on the daily weather forecasts by the Meteorological Depart-ment, the possibility of peninsular Malaysia being hit by transboundary haze is currently low due to the wind patterns.