17/08/2023 10:29 AM

KUCHING, Aug 17 (Bernama) -- The ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC) has detected a total of 77 fire hotspots in Sarawak between Aug 1 and 15, with the highest number of hotspots 36 recorded on Aug 1.

Sarawak Deputy Energy and Environmental Sustainability Minister Dr Hazland Abang Hipni said the Singapore-based ASMC also reported a total of 195 hotspots detected in Sarawak and 2,820 in Kalimantan, Indonesia, from January to July this year.

“A total of 2,153 have been detected in Kalimantan with the highest number on Aug 5 with 376 hotspots recorded. From Aug 13 to 15, no hotspots were detected in Sarawak, while 424 hotspots were reported in Kalimantan,” he said in a statement today.

He added that from January until 8 am yesterday (Aug 16), the trend of the Air Pollution Index (API) in Sarawak was in the range of good to moderate levels with no unhealthy readings recorded.

“Based on the Malaysian Meteorological Department's weather forecast on July 26, the country is currently in the Southwest Monsoon phase which started on May 15 and is expected to end in mid-September,” he said.

Dr Hazland said during the Southwest Monsoon, the winds with lower air humidity blow consistently from the southwest which causes the lack of rain cloud formation during this period.

According to him, ASMC forecast that dry weather conditions will continue in nearby regions such as in southern and central Kalimantan, resulting in the risk of increased hot spots and haze in fire-prone areas.

He said the state Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) had activated the haze operation room, stopped issuing controlled open burning permits and cancelled permits that had been issued for that purpose.

“NREB has also issued a notice prohibiting open burning to all project developers and held an awareness programme with other agencies to ensure air quality is maintained,” he said and added that patrols were also conducted to deter open burning.

He added that perpetrators can be charged under Section 30(1)(a) and Section 30(2) of the Sarawak Natural Resources and Environment Ordinance which provides for a fine not exceeding RM100,000 or imprisonment of up to five years or both, upon conviction.

He also advised the public to drink enough water, reduce outdoor activities or wear a face mask, especially for high-risk groups who need to do outdoor activities during periods of hot and dry weather.

“Members of the public are also urged to cooperate to report cases of open burning to 082-319 543 or nearby NREB offices," he added.