KUCHING, Sept 10, 2015:

The haze situation continues to worsen in the city capital and its surrounding areas with air quality reading reaching unhealthy level.

As at 3pm today, Samarahan recorded the worst air quality at 172, followed by Kuching at 149, Sri Aman (155) and Sarikei (102)

Other areas recorded moderate readings but are slowly worsening each hour. This includes Bintulu at 95 and Sibu at 92.

State Natural Resources and Environment Board Controller Peter Sawal said the poor visibility was thanks to trans boundary haze.

“Last week there were more than 300 hotspots recorded all over the Kalimantan border and it is not getting any better due to large scale open burning activities over there,” said Sawal when contacted.

This could be the worst situation over the last 10 years period for Sarawak, but relatively better compared to 1997 where air quality reading reached hazardous levels at 700 and the following year at 500.

“The situation is better for us due to strict open burning policies we have in play, but we could not do much if it is carried out from the other side of the border.”

Earlier this week, The Star reported open burning activity was carried out in Bakun, but Sawal said that incident does not contribute to the haze experienced today due to the size of the land used by the community for shifting cultivation.

“It is a common practice for the rural community to carry out shifting cultivation, but the land size used in their activity is far less than the ones that contributes to this haze.”

“Poor visibility is due to micron particles in the air that can travel miles away from the source. What this meant is that to have poor visibility like this, we need at least 100×100 square feet of burning area and imagine if we have hundreds of these in the map on top of the wind direction heading our way.”

The situation last week was better, due to massive thunderstorms clearing the skies over the weekend, but Sawal said rain was expected minimal at this week and would not be enough to improve the situation.

“We expect the haze to last at least till the end of the week if the weather persists.”

Meanwhile, checks at the Kuching International Airport showed that visibility level was between 800m to 1000m.

Senior Airport Manager Mohd Nadzim Hashim said there were problems with arrivals due to poor visibility leading to arrival delays.

“As for now operations are normal. There are no problems with departure but some slight arrival delays are expected. Normally in situations like this, it will be the pilot’s call to divert but so far there is none.”

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