Let’s be real now, how much more haze can Malaysians take? We can’t remember the last time we saw clear blue skies and fluffy white clouds. In fact, that sounds like a place in a land far, far away.
Unfortunately, it’s likely that it’ll stay this way until past New Year’s.
According to The Straits Times, citing experts and officials, the Indonesian forest fires that have caused choking smoke to drift across Southeast Asia are spreading to new areas and are unlikely to be put out until next year.
Indonesia has come under increased pressure from its neighbours to contain the annual “haze” crisis, which is caused by slash-and-burn agriculture practices, largely on Sumatra and Kalimantan – but it has failed to put out the fires.
“Maybe it will last until December and January,” said Mr Herry Purnomo, a scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research, adding that hot spots had reached Papua, a region that usually avoids widespread fires.
“It is because people are opening new agriculture areas, like palm oil,” he added.
A senior official at a company active in Indonesia’s forested areas said the haze could continue until March.
Separately, Malaysia’s Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafa warned that international efforts to douse raging Indonesia fires will fail and Southeast Asia could face several more weeks of choking smoke until the rainy season starts.
Malaysia enjoyed a brief spell of lowered haze last week, but the government – which has repeatedly ordered school closures across wide areas as a health precaution – did so again on Monday (19th October) as skies once again reverted to the now-familiar soupy gray.
Schools were closed in several states and in the capital Kuala Lumpur as pollution levels climbed well into the “unhealthy” range under the government’s rating system.
“Unless there is rain, there is no way human intervention can put out the fires,” he told AFP on the sidelines of Malaysia’s parliament session, warning that the blazes were spread across “huge areas” of Indonesia.
Even the multi-nation effort now under way “is not enough to put out the fires,” he added. “We hope the rains will come in mid-November. It will be able to put out the fires,” Wan Junaidi said.