Haze returns to Brunei

James Kon

Despite heavy rain in some parts of the Brunei-Muara District yesterday afternoon, the haze condition continues to persist in the country.

A joint press statement released yesterday by the Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation, Ministry of Development; the Fire and Rescue Department, Ministry of Home Affairs; the Ministry of Health; the Brunei Darussalam Meteorological Department; Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications said that the hazy conditions are due to predominant hotspots occurring in the Borneo region and carried over to Brunei Darussalam by the prevailing southwesterly winds.

Satellite images from the ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC) detected 518 hotspots yesterday, scattered mostly in the southern and western parts of Borneo.

As of 4pm yesterday, the Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) readings were 53 for the Brunei-Muara District, 67 for the Belait District, 61 for the Tutong District and 37 for the Temburong District.

A PSI reading below 50 indicates good air quality, while 50-100 is moderate.

The particular matter (PM10) in all four districts was relatively higher than normal.

The Ministry of Health advised the public that at PSI readings 50-100, minor health effects such as coughs, eye irritation and runny noses may be experienced, while children with asthma, lung and heart diseases are advised to reduce outdoor physical activities.

Hazy condition along the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Highway yesterday. PHOTO: RAHWANI ZAHARI

The Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation is closely monitoring the situation. The public will be kept informed of the air quality situation through its website also through Radio Television Brunei broadcasts.

In the meantime, the public is advised to refrain from conducting open burning and other activities that may worsen the haze conditions.

Meanwhile, the Air Pollutant Index (API) reading for Kuching, Sarawak rose above 200 as early as 7am yesterday and gradually rose to 210 at 10am, indicating a very unhealthy air quality.

On September 5, the ASMC said that there was a further deterioration in the haze condition in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Persistent hotspot clusters detected that the provinces of South, West and Central Kalimantan contributed to the significant build-up of smoke haze over many areas in the Indonesia territory.

Smoke haze from hotspots in West Kalimantan was observed to have been blown by the prevailing winds to western Sarawak.

Based on surveillance by the NOAA-19 satellite, there has been an increase in hotspot activities. A total of 114 and 459 hotspots were detected in Kalimantan on September 3-4, respectively.

In view that the current dry weather is expected to persist over the region in the coming weeks, a further escalation of hotspot activities in Kalimantan is possible. With the prevailing winds forecast to continue blowing from the southeast or southwest, ASMC assessed that the risk of transboundary haze occurrence is high.

For complaints on open burning and questions on the air quality, contact the Darussalam hotline at 123 or the Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation at 2241262 ext 4405 during office hours.

The public is advised to report any incidences of bush and forest fires to the Fire and Rescue Department at 995.

The public can also obtain the PSI readings online at www.env.gov.bn, along with health information and advice at www.moh.gov.bn. To obtain weather information and forecasts, visit the Brunei Darussalam Meteorological Department’s website at www.met.gov.bn.