VARIOUS initiatives are currently being carried out to combat the haze in Miri which is primarily caused by peat (soil) fire, open burning and the trans-boundary wind.
According to Assistant Minister for Environment Datuk Len Talif Salleh, the government is taking this issue very seriously and has formulated an action plan on the management of open burning by the various agencies.
“In Miri, the haze is caused by the peat soil fire in Kuala Baram. From Feb to March this year, a total of 1,888 hectares of peat soil fire have been recorded, causing an API reading of 321 (dangerous level) as of Feb 22,” said Len when responding to a question raised by Piasau assemblyman Datuk Sebastian Ting Chiew Yew on policies and action plans to prevent the annual haze in Miri.
He also said among the measures being taken was building a watch tower to spot and identify peat soil fires; building of a check dam to control the water level and a tube well as water source to put out fires; water bombing and cloud seeding; putting up of signs to educate the public on the dangers of open burning; periodic spot checks and enforcement to deter illegal open burning; and freezing of open burning permits during dry season.
Other approaches, he added, included forging close cooperation with the local community and the army.
Len said companies with big land banks were required to come up with a standard operating procedure (SOP) for the prevention or suppression of peat fire to ensure no recurrence of peat fires.
Besides that, a memorandum of understanding to implement the SOP had been signed between the Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB), Naim Land Sdn Bhd, Shin Yang Forestry Sdn Bhd, Woodman Group of Companies and Pantai Bayu Indah Sdn Bhd on Aug 9, 2016 in Miri, he added.
Len also said the SOP would require the companies to be on alert whenever there is no rain for five consecutive days, when the API reading is 50 and the Fire Weather Index reading reaches seven.