Haze: Putrajaya warns Malaysian palm oil companies in Indonesia

Putrajaya has warned Malaysian-owned companies operating in Indonesia to abide by all the local laws and regulations, and to ensure they do not contribute to environmental degradation.

The warning came after senior Indonesian minister Agung Laksono claimed that big foreign palm oil investors, including Malaysian companies, might be responsible for deliberately starting forest fires, the cause of the choking haze now.

"The forest fires were started with the intention of opening up more palm oil plantations," Agung claimed.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel will visit Indonesia next week to meet his counterpart and discuss the issue.

The government released a statement today saying it was important for all Asean member countries to work together in the spirit of cooperation to tackle the problem.

In view of the air pollution index (API) worsening in Malacca and Johor, Palanivel has requested the National Security Council secretariat activate the Haze Management Coordination Committee.

The haze from Riau in Sumatra, Indonesia, is carried to the west coast of Malaysia by the Southwest Monsoon.

The Air Pollutant Index (API) readings of 0 to 50 are considered good, followed by moderate (51-100), unhealthy (101-200), very unhealthy (201-300) and hazardous (past 300).

Officials in Johor, where the haze is particularly bad, have called on school authorities to monitor the API. If it rises above 150, schools must halt all outdoor activities which involve students.

Should the API rise above 250, schools should stop all outdoor activities. And if the API exceeds 300, schools will automatically be closed.

Furthermore, the Johor Health Department yesterday issued a reminder for the public, especially children and the elderly, to limit their outdoor activities and seek immediate medical attention in the case of breathing difficulties.

The haze has reached dangerous levels in Muar, Batu Pahat and Pasir Gudang, which has forced the Johor government to shut down 200 schools in these districts. - June 21, 2013.



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