Haze affecting air quality

It is that time of year again when the air in Malaysia is filled with smoke  and haze.  It comes from the slash-and-burn farming techniques that are used on the island of Sumatra.  The burning fields sets the peat moss swamp on fire and that smolders and produces all the smoke.  The smoke drifts across the Strait of Malacca to the Malaysian Peninsula and greatly decreases the air quality from Singapore all the way up past Penang.  Travel to Malaysia is greatly hampered and those in Penang that depend on the tourist trade are very upset about it.

Follow air quality online

We’re keeping an eye on the Department of Environment website for air quality.  The API index is a single number from 0 to 500.  Anything below 100 means clear blue skies.  There are government regulations that go into effect if the API index reaches certain thresholds.  For example schools are automatically closed if the number reaches 300.

Poor air quality from the haze is showing up in problems with our health.  People are experiencing respiratory problems from itchy throats and lungs to wheezing to difficulty breathing.

Indonesian response to criticism is varied

The Indonesian president SBY formally apologized to Singapore and Malaysia about the air quality.  Aircraft were sent out to fight the fires, with some success.  But the criticism from Malaysia continued.

An Indonesian Environment Minister was quick to point out that the culprits are 8 Malaysian owned businesses in Sumatra that were using these outlawed slash-and-burn farming techniques.

What’s going on in Penang

The first day of the haze was pretty bad.  There was a run on surgical face masks.  All the pharmacies and mini markets in Batu Ferringhi were sold out in a day, before they got restocked.

Rains came pretty quickly and washed out a lot of the smoke from the air.  Air quality peaked at only 130 API this time around.  We will get another bout of haze around November.