Miri still mired in haze

PUTRAJAYA, 14 Aug 2019:

The air quality in Miri, Sarawak continued to be at hazardous and very unhealthy levels today, recording an Air Pollutant Index reading of 361 and 268 at the Industrial Training Institute (ILP) and Kuala Baram air monitoring stations respectively.

The Environment Department (DOE), in a statement today, said the hazardous and unhealthy air hovering over Miri was caused by ongoing peat fires located close to air monitoring stations.

The department said the API was also at a very unhealthy level in Sri Aman (239), caused by several peat fires in the area, and made worse by transboundary haze from the forest fires in Kalimantan in Indonesia.

Transboundary haze have caused an increase in API readings in the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia and also western Sarawak, adding that these episodes have contributed to the country’s air quality status to drop to moderate level, the department said.

The DOE said one air monitoring station recorded good air quality today, while 63 other stations recorded moderate levels.

The department was also stepping up enforcement and daily patrols at areas potentially susceptible to open burning.

Meanwhile, the Johor government is taking extra precautions and will monitor all water treatment plant intakes in the state, some of which have been found to record sharp dips in water levels following hot and dry weather conditions since early July.

State International Trade, Investment and Utilities Committee chairman Jimmy Puah Wee Tse said the dry weather phenomenon affecting the country at present has resulted in raw water levels dropping, which in turn has caused several treatment plants unable to operate at a normal rate.

Currently, 44 water treatment plants in Johor are operating normally, although some intakes have shown a a sharp drop in its water level, Puah said, adding that the worry now was that if the dry spell continued for a longer period.

The Kota Tinggi intake was one such example, he said, with the raw water level dropping drastically. The water level at the Lok Heng intake (in Kota Tinggi) as of yesterday evening dropped to the 0.93m warning level, which is way below the 2.75m normal level.

“Sungai Sedili Kecil which is the source of raw water for the plant was already drying up two weeks ago and this situation has continued until yesterday,” he said in a statement today.

Puah said water service operator, Ranhill SAJ Sdn Bhd (Ranhill SAJ) has proposed for scheduled water supply in the affected areas as the treatment plants were now unable to operate normally.

“We have applied to National Water Services Commission (SPAN) for scheduled water supply to be carried out, but it will depend on whether or not there is enough water to carry on operating.”

The Lok Heng intake, he said, supplied treated water to some 4,000 consumers in the Bukit Waha, Bukit Easter, Simpang Waha, Lok Heng Barat, Lok Heng Timur and Lok Heng Selatan Felda schemes and also in Bukit Tentera.

Meanwhile Puah said the water level at the Lebam dam in Kota Tinggi was also just below the critical level, but the treatment plant there was still capable of operating normally.

“The dry weather has also caused water levels at the Sungai Muar intake to almost dip to the warning level while the intake for the Bukit Serampang treatment plant is the one which recorded the highest drop in water levels.

“The same is happening with several rivers in Segamat and the Gunung Pulai dam near Pontian, all of which provide water for parts of the Johor Bahru and Pontian population.”

Puah said the state government and Ranhill SAJ, with the cooperation of relevant agencies, will continue to monitor the situation very closely, and assured consumers that they will be regularly provided with the latest updates.

He also advised the public to conserve water to avoid water disruptions.

– Bernama