Climate change will worsen haze situation in Southeast Asia, says expert

As Thailand braces for poor air quality in coming weeks due to the dry season, an academician warned the haze in the region will continue for decades if no action is taken against climate change.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Prof Dr Fredolin Tangang described climate change as “a bigger issue” as the annual transboundary haze is expected to hit the region between July and September.

“Due to climate change, the rainfall tends to shift and our studies have shown Sumatra and Kalimantan will be dryer in decades to come,” said Fredolin, who is attached to the university’s Climatology and Physical Oceanography at the School of Environmental and Natural Resources, Faculty of Science and Technology.

“This will be an annual issue and Indonesia remains the source of haze.”

According to the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC), June to August are associated with the traditional dry season of the southern Asean region, and “a gradual increase in hotspot activities particularly in the fire-prone areas of Sumatra and Kalimantan, can be expected”.

The centre said during extended periods of dry weather, an escalation of hotspot activities is expected and may lead to transboundary haze pollution in the region.

This prompted the Thai authorities to meet stakeholders, including representatives from several ministries, the armed forces and local government bodies, in Nakhon Si Thammarat province on Saturday.

The meeting was to discuss preliminary measures to prevent local and transboundary haze pollution.

Thailand’s Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa, who chaired the meeting, was quoted by the Bangkok Post as saying the government is aware the haze caused by forest fires in Malaysia and Indonesia affects the kingdom’s southern region.

Fredolin said Malaysia is supposed to be experiencing the dry season now.

“This is a season when you typically have forest fires due to the dryness in June, July and August.

“But we have been having rather unusual weather conditions over the past one to two weeks. This is unusual and due to Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO).”

MJO is characterised by an eastward spread of large regions of enhanced and suppressed tropical rainfall. Scattered rain and thunderstorms have been recorded nationwide in recent days.

Concerns have also been raised over the lack of strict enforcement in Indonesia following the Covid-19 pandemic, as farmers there could return to clear their lands.

Also in question is the progress of an Asean roadmap which was supposed to achieve the vision of a haze-free region by this year.

The roadmap was adopted during the 12th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-12) to the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution on Aug 11, 2016 in Kuala Lumpur.

To this, Fredolin said: “This year is supposed to be the milestone but different countries have different ways of dealing with such issues.”

Here’s the other news round-up in The News Normal today:

MALAYSIANS AMONG ‘STARS OF COVID’ 

Seven Malaysians and organisations based in Malaysia have been awarded the Global Humanitarian Award: Stars of Covid by the World Humanitarian Drive.

The seven are Humaniti Malaysia secretary-general Ahmad Tarmizi Mukhtar, Penang Tanjung Muslim Association president Mohamed Nasir Mohideen, Dr Florance Manoranjitham Sinniah, R. Naraesh Pillai, Pure Life Society, Malaysia Corruption Watch, and Malaysian Indian Armed Forces Veteran Penang.

The award is to show gratitude to and honour courageous volunteers who have contributed to the betterment of humanity, especially during the pandemic.

MELBOURNE SUBURBS LOCKED DOWN 

Residents in Melbourne’s north and west neighbourhoods had to stay at home to contain a surge in Covid-19 cases. According to news reports from Australia, the southern state of Victoria has recorded 233 Covid-19 cases since Thursday – mostly in Melbourne.

SWINE FLU PANDEMIC WARNING

Researches in China have identified a new strain of swine flu which is able to spread to humans, warning it could cause another pandemic.

The G4 EA H1N1, predominant among pigs since 2016, is similar to the swine flu that caused a pandemic some 10 years ago.

BREAKING RECORDS BETTER THAN WINNING MEDALS 

Former national racewalker Annastasia Karen Raj says athletes shouldn’t settle for winning medals at the SEA Games and should instead break records to compete in the Olympics.

The Olympian, who is now based in Shanghai, added athletes with fire would want to compete in the Olympics and their focus and ultimate goal should be to improve their personal best or national record.

“But if an athlete is looking at the short term, just winning a gold medal or some monetary reward, that’s not going to take the athlete far. Eventually, such an athlete will retire sooner before reaching his or her peak.”