Sarawakians beginning to question API readings, like in 1997

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Image: themalaysianinsider - A kilometre down the road from the Kuching international airport, shrouded in smoke.

Andrew Aeria speaks up about the worsening haze in Sarawak, reports The Malaysian Insider.

An academic in Kuching has accused the authorities of not reporting the correct air pollutant index (API) to the public, echoing a popular complaint heard during the worst pollution in 1997.

Dr Andrew Aeria, a political scientist of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, today claimed the authorities were not giving the right readings to the public.

“I don’t think they are. I think they have falsified the readings,” Aeria said echoing similar allegations made by an angry public in 1997, when the smoke was so thick that visibility was reduced to a mere 50m in Kuching, and yet it took the government days before declaring a state of emergency.

“The API reading cannot be so low,” Aeria, who was stuck at the Bintulu airport for over five hours on 10 September as his flight would not take off as the visibility at his destination airport the Kuching international airport was reported to be about 1km – below the minimum requirement for landing requiring visual cues.

He said it should have been higher and that “schools should be ordered closed” by now.

Disputing this afternoon’s API reading of 164 for Kuching, 178 for Samarahan and 160 for Sri Aman – the three heaviest hit areas of the state – Aeria believed from the experience he had in 1997 and what he saw today, the reading “should be closer to 200”.

He believed the “falsified reading” could be due to the government pandering to the Indonesian government and also economic reasons.

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“We seemed to be so afraid of not wanting to upset the Indonesian government with what they’re doing year after year.”

He also said the implication of declaring a state of emergency could be damaging to an already battered economy reeling from the freefall of the ringgit and allegations of financial mismanagement and scandals.

In a state of emergency, schools would have to be shut and all outdoor activities are banned.

Flights to Kuching continued to be diverted due to poor visibility and the small Sibu airport was reported to be “jammed with aircraft” that were diverted there to be refuelled before making a fresh attempt to land in Kuching.

The Asean Specialised Meterological Centre (ASMC), which regularly issues advisories for transboundary smoke to the respective Asean stakeholders, had stated the transboundary smoke could continue to spread to Sarawak and other parts of the region due to the dry weather conditions over Kalimantan and prevailing wind conditions.

Source: The Malaysian Insider

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