KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia continues to be in the grip of the hottest weather it has ever had. In the past few weeks schools have been closed, water supplies are being rationed – and now the haze has returned to Kuala Lumpur.
But this time it is fires in peninsula Malaysia - and not neighbouring Indonesia - that are being blamed for the haze in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.
An aggravating factor is the searing heat - temperatures that have sent the mercury soaring for weeks now in Malaysia. Temperatures exceeded 37°C for more than three days in the state of Perlis and parts of Pahang, forcing schools there to close on Friday (Apr 22) - not for the first time this year.
As water levels in dams dip, states like Johor in the south have begun water rationing as well - and more in the north may soon be forced to.
"We will keep the state governments informed,” said Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, Malaysian Minister of Natural Resources and Environment. “Then it's up to the states to decide whether or not water rationing is required."
Steps are being taken to keep the agriculture sector afloat a well. Hundreds of water pumps and tube wells have been sent to states like Kedah and Perlis, known for their paddy fields.
Up to 65 per cent of domestic demand for rice is met by local suppliers. More than half of that is provided from Kedah in Perlis, considered to be the rice bowl states of Malaysia. So this heat could really pose a problem to the industry.
El Nino has been taking the heat for the soaring temperatures. It is a naturally occurring climate cycle that causes extreme weather conditions - but scientists say global warming caused by human activity has exacerbated El Nino's effects.
It is a concept that has made little sense to farmers in Kedah, who live far away from the carbon emissions of factories and big cities.
“They say humans haven't taken care of the environment so it's become like this,” said a farmer in Kedah. "No, this is in God's hands, we don't determine things, it's not like we wanted this to happen."
In Kuala Lumpur, the heat is also making itself felt, and residents have responded by blasting their air-conditioners to such an extent that electricity consumption has hit an all-time high.