KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia will try to collect rain by seeding clouds and prepare to close schools as air quality deteriorates in various places, raising fears of a new round of pollution from forest fires, the environment ministry said. .
Almost every dry season, smoke from fires to clear land to grow palm oil and pulp and paper in Indonesia blacks out the skies over much of the region, creating public health risks and worrying tourism operators and airlines.
Air quality in Malaysia is deteriorating, especially in the western part of Peninsular Malaysia, where 11 districts recorded unhealthy air pollution index readings, Wan Abdul Latif Wan Jaafar, director-general of the department, said in a statement late on Monday.
Malaysia said last week that fires in neighboring Indonesia were the cause of the pollution, although Indonesia denied detecting any smoke flowing across its borders into Malaysia.
The Malaysian Ministry said earlier on Monday that the regional meteorological agency had detected nearly 250 “hotspots” indicating fires on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and in its part of the island of Borneo, none of which are in Malaysia.
Wan Abdul Latif said efforts to purify the air from rain by seeding clouds and other measures to deal with pollution will take effect when API readings reach 150 for more than 24 hours.
He said schools and kindergartens should stop all outdoor activities when API readings reach 100, and close when they reach 200.
Meanwhile, environmental organization Greenpeace has called on countries in the region to introduce legislation to prevent farm companies from causing air pollution.
“Enacting a local cross-border haze law is necessary to act as a deterrent, especially since there are bad apples in the industry,” Heng Kiah Choon, Greenpeace’s regional campaign strategist for Southeast Asia, said in a statement.
Singapore, which prides itself on its clean air, passed a cross-border air pollution law in 2014 that makes those who create haze criminally and civilly liable.
(Reporting by Rozanna Latif – Prepared by Muhammad for the Arabic Bulletin) Edited by Robert Birsel
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