KUALA LUMPUR: Frustrated by the recurrence of haze, Malaysians have been left helpless in dealing with the choking air.
On Wednesday (Sep 18), air quality in 10 areas in Malaysia fell within the “very unhealthy” range, forcing nearly 1,500 schools nationwide to close.
The haze originated from peat and forest fires in Indonesia, where many still practise the slash-and-burn agricultural technique.
As of 3pm, Shah Alam recorded an Air Pollutant Index (API) of 221, the second highest in the state of Selangor after Johan Setia in Klang at 260.
Mr Abu Talip, 56, a security guard who has lived in Shah Alam for 43 years, said he could barely breathe.
“Shah Alam has always been badly hit by haze. It was quite bad about two or three years ago, but if you ask me, this is one of the worst I have seen,” he said.
“Haze is such a common occurrence that Malaysians just brush it aside and call it the haze season, like it was the monsoon or dry season. It should not be like that at all.”
English teacher Mdm Khadijah Ratnam, who is from Shah Alam, said students’ progress are affected when schools are closed.
“I know that many of my students are overjoyed at the school closure, but the reality is, the haze is bad for their health.
“Also, it affected our progress in covering the syllabus,” she said.
GOVERNMENTS ARE URGED TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM
While Malaysians are upset at the cross-border haze, the Indonesian authorities have suggested that the smog shrouding Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak was caused by the fires within Malaysia.
Jakarta has also named Malaysian-owned firms as among the culprits who set their land on fire in Indonesia.
Malaysian minister Yeo Bee Yin, who oversees the environment, has said that the Indonesian government should do what is necessary to investigate and take action against those responsible for the fire.
READ: Indonesia 'doing everything' to put out forest fires: President Widodo
Engineering student Mr Chow Sim Zhe, 22, said he and his classmates have to brave the haze to attend classes because universities were not closed.
“But the other day one of my classes was cancelled because my lecturer had a respiratory attack,” he recounted.
Mdm Khadijah said as a Malaysian, she is angry that Indonesia is pushing the blame on Malaysia.
“Every year we go through this. For years, out of respect for the bilateral ties maybe, our government just tries to manage the situation by closing schools and conducting cloud seeding.
“But how much longer can we do this?”
Having to work outdoors all day has taken a toll on his health, said Mr Abu the security guard, urging the government to work with Indonesia to get to the root of the problem.
“I am old and I am still working because I have my family to look after. This situation is not good for me as it is for many other people out here.
“I hope our prime minister and the Indonesian leaders can do something about it,” he said.