KUCHING, Sept 11 — Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri James Masing called on the international community to penalise Indonesia for its forest fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra that are polluting the air regionally.
He also said Putrajaya should bill the Indonesian government for the 500,000 face masks sent to Sarawak.
“Until they suffer economically, they will not take our complaints seriously with their year after year of blanketing the region,” he said when responding to the hazy conditions in South-east Asia.
“The Indonesian government must bear the full brunt of responsibility of the haze in Sarawak and should also send all medical facilities including face masks, especially to those who are vulnerable to haze.”
Masing complained that the haze has become nearly an annual problem in Sarawak during dry weather.
“Jakarta doesn’t feel the effects of the toxic smog because the wind doesn’t blow its way, so they can’t sympathise with us,” he said.
The state Natural Resources and Environmental Board said yesterday that the south-westerly wind caused thick smoke from Kalimantan to blow into Sarawak.
Its controller of environmental quality Justine Jok Jau Eman said Kalimantan and Sumatra contributed to about 97.15 per cent of hotspots for the region.
As of yesterday, he had said from satellite images 3,106 hotspots were detected in Kalimantan and 1,198 in Sumatra.
As at 10am today, the air quality in Kuching, Samarahan and Sri Aman remained at the unhealthy level.
The Air Pollutant Index (API) for Kuching was 150, Samarahan 132 and Sri Aman, 163.
Scattered showers over certain parts of Kuching and Samarahan early this morning did not mean much to clear air of minute floating particles.
The air quality in other districts of Sarawak has remained moderate with the API reading showing below 100.