KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia on Thursday refuted accusations from Indonesia that the widespread haze currently affecting Malaysia has been caused by Malaysia itself, and the Malaysian Energy Minister Yeo Bee Yin released satellite images and data that she claimed proved the source of the haze was of Indonesian origin.
“Let the data speak for itself,” Yeo — Malaysia’s energy, science, technology, environment and climate change minister, stated on her social media. The 35-year old minister added that Indonesian Environment Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar should “not be in denial.”
On Wednesday, Siti Nurbaya had alleged that that the haze was Malaysia’s own doing and accused Malaysian authorities of not being transparent and posted satellite images that she claimed showed forest fires in Malaysia, adding, “There has been a sharp increase in hot spots in parts of South-East Asia, not only in Indonesia but especially in the Malay Peninsula and parts of Vietnam.”
However, that claim was rebuffed by Yeo in her social media post with the latest data from the ASEAN Specialized Metrological Center (ASMC), which showed 474 and 387 hotspots respectively in Indonesia’s Kalimantan and Sumatra regions, and just seven in Malaysia.
“As for her claim that the haze is from Sarawak, just look at the wind direction. How is it logically possible?” Yeo added.
On its website on Monday, the ASMC stated: “A further escalation of hotspot activities in Sumatra is possible. With the prevailing winds expected to continue blowing from the southeast or southwest, the transboundary haze situation could worsen,” stated ASMC in its website.
According to the air pollution index (API), a reading of air quality level above 100 API is considered “unhealthy” and capable of posing a serious health hazard to the public. In parts of Malaysia most affected by the smoke haze, readings have been as high as 200 API, forcing the government to close more than 400 schools and distribute 500,000 free facemasks to the public.
The Kuala Lumpur skyline is also blanketed with smoke haze, with current API readings reaching between 100 and 200 API. The Malaysian authorities have banned any open-air fires and issued a health warning for the public to stay indoors.
The transboundary haze has become an annual occurrence in the ASEAN region. Despite decades of combined efforts from Indonesia, Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries to resolve the issue, Indonesia continues to face frequent forest fires that emit dangerous levels of air pollutants.