Students return to school with face masks on due to haze in Malaysian state
UNTV News • September 11, 2019 • 339
Students in the Malaysian state of Sarawak returned to school on Wednesday (September 11) donning face masks due to thick haze coming from forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia.
On Tuesday (September 10) more than 400 schools in Sarawak were ordered to close after the smoke from the Indonesian side of the island drove up pollution to unhealthy levels.
Forest fires have raged through parts of the Indonesian island of Sumatra and the province of Kalimantan on Borneo in recent weeks, forcing the government to send in thousands of military and police to douse the flames.
Indonesia’s neighbours have regularly complained about smog caused by its forest blazes – often started by farmers trying to clear land for palm oil and pulp plantations – though Jakarta has denied the accusation, saying forest fires had also started in other countries across the region. (REUTERS)
Haze continued to blanket Singapore for a fifth consecutive day on Wednesday (September 18) as forest fires continued to rage in neighboring countries.
Every dry season, smoke from fires to clear land for palm oil and pulp and paper plantations in Indonesia clouds the skies over much of the region, raising concerns about public health and worrying tourist operators and airlines.
The 24-hour Pollution Standards Index, which Singapore’s National Environment Agency uses as a benchmark, was in a range of 111-126 in the afternoon, while PM2.5 ranged 83-115. A reading above PSI 100 is considered unhealthy. The World Health Organization sets a daily mean air quality guideline of 25 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic meter of air.
Singapore’s air quality deteriorated to “unhealthy” levels on Saturday (September 14) for the first time in three years. (REUTERS)
(Production: Travis Teo, Nur-Azna Sanusi, Yiming Woo, Pedja Stanisic, Afiq Satikin, Arshad Muhammad Satikin, Joseph Campbell)
Malaysia carried out cloud seeding on Monday (September 16) to tame haze and control air pollution in its administrative capital Putrajaya.
Parts of Malaysia, including Putrajaya, have been reeling under an impact of heavy haze with air quality dropping to a “very unhealthy” 203 benchmark, on the Air Pollutant Index the country uses to calculate, as forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia continue to affect the air.
Malaysia carried out cloud seeding in the hope of inducing rain and also closed hundreds of schools and sent half a million face masks to Sarawak, on Borneo island, this week, as fires in Indonesia’s Sumatra and Kalimantan provinces continued to burn.
Indonesia’s neighbours have regularly complained about smog caused by its forest blazes – often started by farmers trying to clear land for palm oil and pulp plantations – though Jakarta has denied the accusation, saying forest fires had also started in other countries across the region. (Reuters)
Dozens of orangutans are suffering from respiratory problems caused by the smoke from forest fires in Indonesia this week.
Indonesia and neighboring countries in Southeast Asia are regularly hit by smoky haze from slash-and-burn clearances of forests for timber and palm oil plantations, but conditions this year have been the worst since 2015 due to an El Nino weather pattern causing an extended dry spell.
The orangutans in Central Kalimantan were previously trafficked and were taken by authorities there to be rehabilitated before being introduced back into the wild.
Caretakers detected respiratory tract infections in some of them and have started moving them into cages in facilities with cleaner air to be monitored.
Veterinarians there said the Pongo pygmaeus, a native species of orangutans to the island of Borneo, are vulnerable to changing conditions, especially the young.
The air pollution index in Palangka Raya, the capital of Central Kalimantan province on Borneo, has been at a “dangerous” level for days.
Schools in Palangka Raya and another city in Central Kalimantan, Sampit, have been closed this week.
Fires have ripped through more than 328,000 hectares of forests and peatlands in Indonesia since January, causing a choking haze to envelop some cities in Borneo and the island of Sumatra, according to the country’s disaster mitigation agency. (REUTERS)
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