After a fairly moderate day, the haze has returned with the air pollutant index (API) this evening showing that more areas have recorded unhealthy levels.
The latest readings released by the Department of Environment’s website showed unhealthy readings in Port Klang, Putrajaya, Banting and Seremban.
Port Klang’s API reading was 118, Putrajaya 112, Banting 108 and Seremban 111.
An API reading of between 0 and 50 is considered good; 51 to 100, moderate; 101 to 200, unhealthy; 201 to 300, very unhealthy; and 301 and above, hazardous.
Before 2pm, Putrajaya’s reading for Sunday had been consistently in the moderate level.
However, the haze in Kuala Lumpur remained at moderate level with readings taken at two stations, Batu Muda and Cheras, showing moderate levels of 81 and 91 respectively.
The reading in Petaling Jaya has remained consistent at 82. Similar readings were also registered in most parts of Malaysia.
The API calculation is based on five major air pollutants, namely sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ground level ozone (O3), carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter with a diametre below 10 micrometres (PM10).
Most of these pollutants come from sources such as industries, motor vehicles, open burning and power generation.
The concentrations of these five pollutants are measured in 52 automatic air quality stations throughout Malaysia, mainly located in industrial and urban areas.
Open burning in Riau last week forced the authorities in Dumai to close schools and urge residents to stay home yesterday, while port officials issued warnings to ships as visibility dropped to 50 metres as the pollutants standard index (PSI) in the area soared to a hazardous 776.
It was also reported that flights to and from Pekanbaru, the provincial capital about 180km away from Dumai, were delayed by several hours due to the haze.
The Straits Times of Singapore reported that the latest bout of haze has been attributed to the “dry weather and open burning” in Sumatra.
Riau disaster mitigation agency head Said Saqlul Amri expressed frustration as only four districts declared a state of emergency, meaning that emergency funds worth 10 billion rupiah (RM2.8 million) cannot be used by firemen.
At least seven districts have to declare a state of emergency before the funds can be touched.
Last year, Putrajaya declared a state of emergency in Muar and Ledang in Johor choked by smoke from forest fires in Indonesia as the API air pollution levels crossed 300.
The Muar pollution reading was Malaysia’s highest since the API hit 860 during a severe 1997-1998 haze crisis that gripped the region and thrust the issue onto the Southeast Asian agenda.
In August last year, following an outcry from parents and teachers unions, the Education Minisry declared that schools must close when the air pollutant index (API) reached 200 instead of the previous 300 limit.
A circular on the directive was sent to state education departments by the Education Ministry on August 7.
The National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) had expressed unhappiness at the height of the haze in June when schools were told to close only when the API reached 300. – March 2, 2014.