As cities in northern Sarawak, such as Miri and Marudi, are experiencing unrelenting “hazardous” air quality conditions - the Malaysian government is advising locals to take care to stay protected and avoid outdoor activity.
Southeasterly winds have quickly moved plumes of dense smoke from agricultural fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan Indonesia towards Malaysia - across Northern Borneo and the Malay peninsula.
Last week, Muhammad Helmi Abdullah, the deputy director of operations for the Meteorological Department, estimated that the fires and resulting smoke should clear up by mid September, when rainfall and changes in wind direction are expected with the onset of the ‘southwest monsoon shift.’ Until then, Sarawak air quality is expected to remain “unhealthy,” while air quality across all Malaysia is likely to suffer.
While crop burning is a common practice used by landowners to quickly and easily prepare the land for sowing of next seasons crops, the practice can frequently cause out of control wildfires and far-reaching air pollution. More must be done to discourage the clearing method, or incentive more ecologically responsible practices, in order to safeguard public health and the environment.