Haze strikes Penang

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GEORGE TOWN: Penang is the latest casualty of the haze which struck the country on Sunday, with Seberang Jaya 2 in Prai recording unhealthy air quality, yesterday.

Seberang Jaya 2 recorded an Air Pollutant Index (API) reading of 101 at midday.

The figure, however, fell slightly to 96 in the evening. API levels of other parts of Prai and Penang reached 89 and 86, respectively, at midday, but fell to 85 and 79 by evening.

The Department of Environment (DOE) website states that an API reading of 51 to 100 is labelled "moderate" while an API of 101 to 200 is "unhealthy".

Klang Valley residents were relieved as the haze showed signs of dissipating, yesterday.

Port Klang recorded an API of 79, yesterday evening, although it rose to 83 by midday, up from 80 in the morning.

It had previously been recorded to be the worst hit area on Sunday, with an API of 139.

Other areas that recorded unhealthy air quality on Sunday also saw their API levels drop with Kuala Selangor at 72, Batu Muda (69), Cheras (65) and both Petaling Jaya and Shah Alam at 60.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas told The Malay Mail on Sunday that the public was encouraged to monitor API levels which were being updated on the DOE website (http://www.doe.gov.my) three times a day.

He confirmed the haze to be a cross--border phenomenon originating from hotspots in Sumatra, and hoped that the Indonesian authorities would carry out efforts to improve the situation.

Cheap slash--and--burn techniques employed by farmers there to clear forests have been blamed for what is almost an annual occurence in the region.

However, according to Indonesian authorities, the fault also lies with Malaysian investors whose interest in palm oil plantations there serve to further aggravate the situation.

DOE director--general Halimah Hassam has placed a ban on all open burning except for the cremation of bodies, religious purposes and grills or barbecues.

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