INDONESIA: Forest fires in Indonesia, particularly in Sumatra and Kalimantan, have raised concerns in Malaysia as the nation grapples with a week-long episode of smoke haze.
The Malaysian Department of Environment’s director-general, Wan Abdul Latiff Wan Jaffar, highlighted the worsening air pollution affecting the west coast of Malaysia and Sarawak on the Malaysian part of Borneo island.
Latiff Wan Jaffar stated in a press release issued on Friday (29 Sep), “Overall air quality in the country shows deterioration, with forest fires in the southern part of Sumatra and the central and southern parts of Kalimantan, Indonesia causing haze to cross borders.”
However, the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry, represented by Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar, vehemently denied these claims, asserting that there was no transboundary haze from Indonesia affecting Malaysia.
Minister Siti Nurbaya cited information from the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) and the ASEAN Specialized Meteorological Center (ASMC) for the period 28-30 September 2023, and up to 1 October 2023.
She emphasized that according to these sources, there is no evidence of smoke crossing into Malaysia.
ASMC data for smoke haze in Sumatra and Kalimantan
The ASMC, a regional collaboration program among ASEAN member countries led by the Singapore Meteorological Service, reported that while smoke haze was observed as moderate to dense in parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan, it had not impacted Malaysia.
Satellite images from ASMC on 29 and 30 September 2023, indicated smoke haze in Sumatra and Kalimantan but not in Malaysia.
The orange colour on the maps represents smoke haze, with darker shades signifying thicker concentrations. The reports also noted prolonged dry weather conditions in the region, contributing to an increase in hotspots.
Nevertheless, as of 1 October 2023, ASMC imagery did not show any transboundary haze affecting Malaysia.
BMKG shows there is no cross-border smoke
Meanwhile, BMKG data is based on Himawari satellite monitoring, in images of smoke distribution throughout Indonesia on these three days, smoke was detected in a number of areas in Sumatra and Kalimantan.
Wind direction in Indonesia is generally from southeast to northwest to northeast and no cross-border smoke was detected.
Minister Siti remarked, “Both parties have unequivocally confirmed the absence of cross-border smoke.”
Numerous initiatives underway to suppress the fires
Nonetheless, Minister Siti acknowledged the importance of considering input from multiple sources and perspectives.
Minister Siti reported that response teams were actively engaged in ground-based firefighting efforts in South Sumatra, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, as well as several areas in Sumatra and Kalimantan, including certain regions in Java.
These measures encompassed ground-based fire suppression, water bombing operations, and the implementation of Weather Modification Techniques.
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