Haze: Malaysia is not blaming Indonesia, just offering help, says ambassador

A view of the city skyline shrouded by haze in Kuala Lumpur on Sept 11

Haze from forest fires causing health problems

Malaysia has said Indonesian forest fires are responsible for the smoky haze that has caused air quality to drop to unhealthy levels in certain parts of the country.

Malaysian Ambassador to Indonesia Zainal Abidin Bakar said the official letter from the Malaysian government through the Minister of Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment Yeo Bee Yin had been made available to the Indonesian government recently.

Indonesia's forestry minister, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, said yesterday the problem should be viewed "more objectively" and the smoke could have originated from fires in Malaysia.

Record Indonesian forest fires in 2015 spread haze across a swath of Southeast Asia, and according to a study by Harvard and Columbia universities, hastened 100,000 deaths.

Kan shared a tweet with a video showing the city covered in smoke, that resulted from forest fires in Indonesia, after Indonesia on Friday rejected Malaysian complaints about hazardous smoke drifting from its forest fires across the border, saying blazes were also raging in parts of Malaysia and on Malaysian-owned plantations in Indonesia.

Police alleged that PT Adei Plantation Industry, a subsidiary of Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd (KLK), had set fire to its land to clear it for planting.

Sime Darby is the world's largest oil palm planter by land size and the largest producer of sustainable palm oil.

A spokeswoman for Sime Darby's Indonesian operation Minamas Plantation said the company was not aware its plantation had been sealed off and was monitoring for hotspots.

Forest fires have become an nearly annual occurrence in Indonesia, especially in dry years, and Indonesia's neighbours have complained of the thick, choking haze wafting in, raising concern about health and the impact on tourism. "Most importantly, the forest fires must be extinguished as soon as possible", she said. In Malaysia's Sarawak state on Borneo, more than 400 schools were closed earlier this week.

Heavy haze is a serious problem every year on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo.

Indonesia has shot back at claims the country is exclusively responsible for the fires that have created a thick haze across parts of Malaysia this week and forced the closure of hundreds of schools.

She even criticised our government for not being objective when providing an explanation to fellow Malaysians!

The number of "hotspots" - areas of intense heat detected by satellite which indicate a high chance of fire - jumped sharply in Indonesia, according to the Singapore-based ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre.

"Let the data speak for itself", she said in a Facebook post, indicating figures from the ASEAN centre which showed only a handful of hotspots in Malaysia compared to the hundreds in Indonesia.

It said 37 helicopters have dropped almost 240 million litres (roughly eight billion fluid ounces) of water and more than 160,000 kilogrammes (352,739 pounds) of salt for cloud seeding as part of the firefighting efforts.

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