Smoke from forest and peat-soil fires drove air quality to unhealthy levels in and around the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, yesterday, adding to the burden of water rationing after a month-long drought.
The government's air-pollution index climbed to as high as 137 in Port Klang yesterday morning, with seven parts of Kuala Lumpur and the states of Selangor and Negri Sembilan recording levels above 100, which is classified as unhealthy. Cloud-seeding had begun to induce rainfall over dams and water-catchment areas, The Star reported, citing Malaysia's Meteorological Department.
"We are trying to identify fire-prone areas, especially peat-soil land, and steps are being taken," said G.Palanivel, Malaysia's natural resources and environment minister.
Disputes over haze flare up regularly between Indonesia and its neighbours. The latest was in June, when smog in Singapore reached a record because of Indonesian forest fires. The pollution now blanketing Kuala Lumpur was not being caused by this, Malaysia's Department of Environment said.
"The medium level of haze that the country is experiencing now is due to internal sources, resulting from land and forest fires in a few states," the government said on its website. "The chances of peninsular Malaysia experiencing cross-border haze at this time are low because of the wind patterns."
Officials in Indonesia's Riau province declared a state of emergency last month due to forest fires causing local haze.
Parliament in neighbouring Singapore, which has suffered a drought since January, was due yesterday to discuss distributing face masks if conditions escalate. Air quality deteriorated to "moderate" from "good" in the city.