MUKAH: The government is stepping up its preparations in addressing the worsening haze in the country, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (pix) said today.

She said this includes not hesitating to declare an emergency when the Air Pollutant Index (API) exceeds 500. An API of 300 and above indicates hazardous air quality.

Dr Wan Azizah said efforts are also being taken to raise awareness among the people on the need to avoid open burning to prevent the haze, mainly brought on by the forest fires in Indonesia, from worsening.

“According to the latest report of the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) of Indonesia as of Sept 14, some 328,724ha had been affected by the forest fires in Indonesia,” she said after launching the Sarawak Zone Program Sayangi Komoditiku (Love Our Commodity Programme) at Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Mukah here.

Dr Wan Azizah said the Indonesian government has stepped up monitoring of the hotspots, visibility range, air quality and smoke besides conducting cloud seeding, water bombing and extinguishing fires on land.

The six affected regions of Indonesia are Riau, Jambi, Southern Sumatera, Western Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan and Southern Kalimantan. The API in the Sri Aman District of Sarawak has been worsening and reached almost 400 at 6pm. The Air Pollutant Index Management System (APIMS) showed a reading of 389.

The API in Kuching was at a ‘’very unhealthy’’ level of 213. Johan Setia in Klang, Selangor, also had a very unhealthy level of 231. Nilai in Negeri Sembilan had a reading of 206 and Seri Manjung in Perak, 232.

An API reading of zero to 50 indicates that the air quality is good; 51 to 100, moderate; 101 to 200, unhealthy; 201 to 300, very unhealthy and 300 and above, hazardous.

Dr Wan Azizah also said that Malaysia had offered help to put out the forest fires in Indonesia.

Earlier, in her speech at the event, the deputy prime minister called on youths in the country to make a paradigm shift by boldly venturing into fields considered as 3D (dirty, difficult and dangerous), such as the plantation sector.

“Youths must grab the opportunities provided by the government to engage in fields that can raise their living standard in line with the country’s vision to become a developed nation,” she said. — Bernama