'Let the data speak for itself': Malaysian minister on transboundary haze from Indonesia

'Let the data speak for itself': Malaysian minister on transboundary haze from Indonesia

FILE PHOTO: Petronas Twin Towers are shrouded by haze in Kuala Lumpur
FILE PHOTO: Petronas Twin Towers are shrouded by haze in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's environment minister Yeo Bee Yin refuted her Indonesian counterpart's claims that Malaysia was hiding facts regarding the current haze situation. 

In a Facebook post on Wednesday (Sep 11), she said data clearly indicated that the haze shrouding parts of Malaysia originated from Indonesia.  

"Let the data speak for itself," she said.

READ: Malaysia sends half a million face masks to haze-hit Sarawak as 409 schools close

Mdm Yeo's post came after Indonesia's Environmental Affairs and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar accused Malaysia of not revealing the full picture of its haze problem, adding that smog affecting Malaysia could have been caused by forest fires in its own country. 

She also dismissed claims that smog was travelling from Riau to Singapore.

In her post, Mdm Yeo shared information published by the Singapore-based ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre, which showed 474 hotspots in Kalimantan and 387 hotspots in Sumatera on Tuesday. 

By comparison, there was just seven hotspots in the whole of Malaysia.  

ASMC haze data Sep 11 ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre
Daily hotspot count. (Graphic: ASMC)

"As for her claim that the haze is from Sarawak, just look at the wind direction. How is it logically possible?" said Mdm Yeo.

"Minister Siti Nurbaya should not be in denial," she added. 

ASMC haze wind direction data ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre
Wind direction and hotspots in Indonesia and Malaysia. (Graphic: ASMC)

The unhealthy air levels persisted on Thursday in Malaysia, with three schools in Klang, Selangor, ordered to close. 

Singapore's National Environment Agency has also warned that air quality may enter the unhealthy range if the haze situation in Indonesia's Sumatra persists or worsens. 

DIPLOMATIC NOTE "NOT A PROTEST LETTER"

Indonesia's neighbours have regularly complained about smog caused by its forest blazes, which are often started to clear land for palm oil and pulp plantations.

Last Friday, Malaysia said a diplomatic note would be sent to Indonesia to call for immediate action against the raging fires, prompting a rebuttal from Mdm Siti Nurbaya who said there had been no recurrence of transboundary haze from Indonesia to neighbouring countries.

Malaysian Ambassador to Indonesia Zainal Abidin Bakar said the letter has been delivered to the Indonesian government. 

“It is not a protest letter, but (about) Malaysia’s intention to help dealing with haze,” he told reporters on Wednesday evening.

READ: Thousands pray for rain in Indonesia as forests go up in smoke

Firefighters battle forest blaze indonesia
Indonesian firefighters battle a forest fire in Kampar, Riau on Sep 9, 2019. (File photo: AFP/Wahyudi)

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said the Cabinet on Wednesday discussed ways to manage the haze situation.

Asked about Mdm Siti Nurbaya's comment that the haze in Malaysia was caused by its own forest fires, he said: "That's her comment, so we can't say anything." 

To combat haze, Malaysia's Department of Environment on Wednesday implemented a nationwide ban on open-air burning, which will last until the southwest monsoon ends.

The ongoing haze has also forced next Monday's Malaysia Day celebration, initially planned to be held outdoors at Padang Merdeka, to be shifted to Stadium Perpaduan in Kuching, Sarawak.

Source: CNA/agencies/jt(tx)

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