KUALA LUMPUR, June 13: The Department of Environment expects to chargethree companies here for open burning which had compounded the haze overthe Klang Valley and other parts of the peninsula today.DOE director-general Rosnani Ibarahim said two companies in Shah Alam andanother in Kuala Langat were being investigated for open burning in oilpalm plantations.
The DOE was also investigating other companies.
Rosnani said they were now gathering evidence and expected to charge thecompanies under Section 29(A) of the Environmental Quality Act 1974, whichcarries a fine of RM500,000, or a jail term of up to five years, or both.
Six hectares of oil palm plantation in Bukit Cerakah and Bukit Naga inShah Alam were on fire the past two days, believed to be the burning offelled trees for replanting.
Another 0.8ha of oil palm plantation in Sg Panjang, Kuala Langat, are alsoon fire.
The fire department has been trying to put out a fire on eight hectares inBatang Berjuntai, Kuala Selangor, since June 1.
It is believed to be an oil palm plantation. Until yesterday, fire inabout six hectares was put out.
"Johan Setia in Klang is another problematic area where farmers burn theiragricultural waste every year," said Rosnani, adding that hot spots werealso spotted in Sepang area.
She also said enforcement officers had started issuing compounds for openburning.
"This morning, the visibility was poor because of high humidity and watervapour in the air. With the presence of particles blown from burning areasin Sumatra, it had resulted in poor visibility," she said.
The air quality status recorded by monitoring stations in Port Klang andPutrajaya was reported to be unhealthy, while 48 other stations around thecountry had good to moderate status.
The dust level (PM10) also rose in Kedah, Penang, Perak, Selangor, KualaLumpur and Putrajaya.
"The PM10 level recorded today at most stations in these areas was higherthan the average level recorded over the last five years," she said.
The dust level recorded at the Manjung station, a station that indicatedtransboundary pollution from Sumatra, showed the highest increase for themonth compared with the same month over the last few years.
Rosnani said low visibility did not necessarily mean poor air quality.
"The deterioration of air quality is slight, but the difference invisibility has been quite significant," said Rosnani.
She said in the later part of the day, the rain cleared the dust.
As for burning in Sumatra, she said the DOE had received reports of bushfires in the Riau province and a visibility of half a kilometre inIndonesia.
"We also received reports of a fire in a plantation in Pekan Baruinvolving up to 1,000 hectares.
"I am afraid that the haze situation may linger for the next few days dueto the hot spots in Indonesia," she said, adding that there were alsoisolated bush fires reported in Sabah.
As for open burning, she said the department had issued a directive a fewweeks ago to companies, farmers and public to stop all burning activitiesdue to the hot spell.
"We have already issued a warning that we will go hard, including takingto court all those caught for open burning," she said. She added that aHaze Committee had been formed, with representation from governmentagencies such as the Fire and Rescue Department, National SecurityCouncil, Police, Drainage and Irrigation Department, and local councils.
"We have drafted our Action Plan, both preventive and curative, in casethe haze worsens," she added.
She said they had started land and air surveillance to check on openburning and helicopters and planes for cloud seeding have been put onstandby. Incidents of open burning can be reported to the DOE's hotline at03-88891972.
In Penang, the State DOE has set up a special squad to check open burning.Its acting director Norazizi Adinan said the 40-member squad would patrolall five districts between 9.30am and 9.30pm beginning today.