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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

2005 Malaysian haze

The 2005 Malaysian haze was a week-long choking smog-like haze over Malaysia that almost brought the central part of Peninsular Malaysia to a standstill, prompted crisis talks with Indonesia and caused widespread inconvenience. The haze was at its worst on August 11, 2005. This was a comeback of the haze crisis which last hit Malaysia in September 1997.

Initial onset

Haze is caused by "hotspots" (zones with high temperature levels as seen via satellite imagery) in Malaysia and Indonesia. Lingering smoke from forest fires on the Indonesian island of Sumatra are identified as the primary cause. Farmers regularly burn scrub and forest to clear land during the dry season for agricultural purposes, but this is the worst haze that has hit Malaysia since the 1997 haze.

On August 10, 2005, air quality in the Malaysian capital city of Kuala Lumpur was so poor, health officials advised citizens to stay at home with doors closed. Some schools were closed to keep children from being exposed to the haze.

State of Emergency in Port Klang and Kuala Selangor

On August 11, 2005 a state of emergency was announced for the world's 12th largest port, Port Klang and the district of Kuala Selangor after air pollution there reached dangerous levels (defined as a value greater than 500 on the Air Pollution Index or API). This was the first time the state of emergency was imposed in Malaysia since the September 1997 haze, when Sarawak was placed in a state of emergency due to similar reasons.

The state of emergency in the two affected areas meant that schools, government officials, the port, and offices were closed. Shops carrying necessities, however, such as supermarkets and pharmacies remained open.

After the API levels dropped to acceptable levels, the state of emergency was later removed on August 13.


By August 13, 2005, air quality and visibility returned to normal in Kuala Lumpur, as the haze moved northwards to the states of Perlis, Kedah and Penang, according to the Department of Environment (JAS) API reading. On August 16th, air quality throughout Malaysia had returned to normal according to JAS statistics, as the haze was blown further northwards into Thailand.

Kuala Lumpur International Airport was unaffected during the hazy period but flights for non-ILS equipped planes from Subang airport were suspended until conditions cleared on August 13th.

Cloud seeding operations using RMAF C-130s were used throughout Malaysia, although the haze had moved north of Malaysia into Thailand.

Malaysia's Environment Minister, Adenan Satem, and Commodities Minister, Peter Chin, met with Indonesia's forestry minister and officials from its environment ministry in Medan. Malaysia had sent 125 firefighters while Australia had sent 12 bushfire experts to fight Indonesia's estimated more than a thousand forest and scrub fires (estimate reached by counting hotspots greater than 1km on satellite imagery, example of such an image shown below).

Other nations pledged aid to Indonesia, including an offer from Singapore of planes for cloud seeding. Japan, Korea and Thailand also offered help.

On August 22, Malaysia extended its cloud seeding operations to include Indonesia, as requested by Indonesia.

The haze made a brief return on September 11.

API readings

The air pollutant index readings (API) were released for the first time by the Malaysian government since 1997. Up to date readings are now available for the 51 sites monitored automatically and continuously via the Department of Environment, Malaysia.

Following are API readings recorded during the onset of haze, 10 August, 2005 (refer Related article from the New Straits Times):

* Port Klang 424
* Kuala Selangor 418
* Shah Alam 349
* Putrajaya 337
* Petaling Jaya 304
* Kuala Lumpur 276
* Tanjung Malim 205
* Gombak 200
* Country Heights, Kajang 185
* Nilai 174
* Seremban 137
* Jerantut 131
* Bukit Rambai, Malacca 107

1 comment:

Samuel Tenney said...

nice blog very informative and detailed it is very useful thanks for sharing such detailed information
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