Saturday, June 29, 2013

Schools should close when API touches 200, says Palanivel

Malaysian schools should shut down when the Air Pollutant Index (API) reading touches 200, rather than the current 300 level, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel said today.

The minister said he has made the suggestion to the Cabinet yesterday to order for schools to be closed when the API reading touches 200.

This was to avoid threatening the health of students and teachers as an API of 200 indicated that the air level was already unhealthy, he was quoted as saying by state news agency Bernama today.

He told this to reporters after visiting the fire prevention and peat soil management project at Kampung Pulau Kempas, Mukim Tanjung 12 in Kuala Langat today.

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Palanivel has also just returned form the Indonesian capital of Jakarta where he conferred with his counterparts on tackling the issue.

Forest fires in Indonesia's Riau, Sumatra and Borneo islands have blown choking smoke to Singapore and Malaysia last week, in what has been called the annual haze season.

Indonesia has blamed the fires on plantation companies from Singapore and Malaysia that have set fire to clear land to produce palm oil, paper and pulp in the archipelago of 17,000 islands.

Jakarta has said it was investigating eight companies that are said to be involved in clearing land using fire although several public-listed Malaysian companies have denied and clarified they are not among those culpable.

The API in Malaysia reached 750 in Muar last week, prompting Putrajaya to declare an emergency in the Johor district and close down schools there.

Schools in parts of Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Pahang, Malacca and Johor were also closed due to the rising API readings last week.

But the winds have switched from a south-westerly to a southerly direction, blowing the smoke away while intermittent rain has also cleared the air.

Experts have warned that the haze will return as fires continue burning in Indonesia. The country has also agreed to bring forward a regional meeting to tackle the issue that has occurred annually since 1997.

There has been at least two deaths attributed to the haze in Malaysia. - June 29, 2013.
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