Malaysia to make it rain as Indonesian smog pollutes air

The Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur and neighboring Singapore were also experiencing hazy conditions. (AFP)
Updated 09 September 2019

Malaysia to make it rain as Indonesian smog pollutes air

  • Smog regularly blankets parts of Southeast Asia during the dry season when burning is used to clear Indonesian land
  • In the latest outbreak, parts of Malaysia’s eastern state of Sarawak on Borneo island have been blanketed over the past few days

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia prepared to seed clouds after air quality in parts of the country reached unhealthy levels due to smog from forest fires in neighboring Indonesia, an official said Monday.
Smog regularly blankets parts of Southeast Asia during the dry season when burning is used to clear Indonesian land for palm oil, paper plantations and other crops, sparking ire from regional neighbors.
In the latest outbreak, parts of Malaysia’s eastern state of Sarawak on Borneo island have been blanketed over the past few days.
The pollutant index in some places has reached “very unhealthy levels,” said Gary Theseira, special functions officer with the environment ministry.
“It is extremely severe in Kuching,” Theseira told AFP, referring to a city of half a million people.
He said Malaysia is prepared to carry out cloud seeding to induce rain in an effort to ease the smog.
“The moment the cloud situation is right, the chemicals will be loaded and the aircraft will take off and proceed with the seeding,” he said.
Some countries conduct seeding during prolonged dry spells to induce rain and clear the air by releasing certain chemicals into the clouds, although some experts have questioned its efficacy.
Boo Siang Voon, a 47 year-old engineer in Kuching described the skies as “hazy, hot with smoky smell.”
“This year the smog is getting worse. Residents are using face masks. We should not pay the price of our health for the open burning. We want a solution,” he told AFP.
The Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur and neighboring Singapore were also experiencing hazy conditions on Monday, with the air laced with the smell of burning foliage, although the pollutant index remained at moderate levels.
Some Kuala Lumpur residents complained about eye and throat irritation.
Malaysia’s meteorological department Sunday warned that hot conditions will prevail for another week, and the monsoon season is only expected to arrive at the end of September or early October.
The ministry of science, technology and innovation on Friday said it would lodge a complaint with Indonesia for the haze and called for quick action to be taken to put out the fires.
Indonesian authorities have deployed thousands of extra personnel since last month to prevent a repeat of the 2015 fires, which were the worst for two decades and choked the region in haze for weeks.
Under pressure from neighbors, Indonesian leader Joko Widodo last month warned that officials would be sacked if they failed to stamp out forest fires.


3,000-strong African force planned against Sahel extremism

Updated 28 February 2020

3,000-strong African force planned against Sahel extremism

  • The force would be a significant new player in the Sahel where fighters linked to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group killed thousands of people last year
  • The decision by African leaders comes as the United States considers cutting its military presence in Africa while urging African solutions to African problems

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia: African leaders have decided to work on deploying 3,000 troops to West Africa’s troubled Sahel region as extremist attacks surge, an African Union official said Thursday.
The force would be a significant new player in the sprawling, arid region south of the Sahara Desert where fighters linked to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group killed thousands of people last year — at times working together in an unprecedented move.
The decision by African leaders comes as the United States considers cutting its military presence in Africa while urging African solutions to African problems. That has sparked pressure from worried security allies including France and regional countries as well as a rare bipartisan outcry among lawmakers in Washington.
Smail Chergui, the African Union commissioner for peace and security, relayed the new troop decision that was taken at the recent AU summit during a meeting Thursday with visiting European Union officials.
The AU continental body is expected to work with the West African regional counterterror force G5 Sahel as well as the West African regional body ECOWAS, which has formed peacekeeping units in the past, Chergui said.
ECOWAS in September announced what Chergui called a “very bold” plan to counter extremism in the region, including mobilizing up to $1 billion through 2024.
“As you see and recognize yourself, the threat is expanding and becoming more complex,” Chergui said. “Terrorists are now even bringing a new modus operandi from Afghanistan and Al-Shabab” in Somalia.
It was not immediately clear what the next steps would be in forming the AU force for the Sahel, which has become the most active region in Africa for extremist attacks.
The force would join France’s largest overseas military operation, the 5,100-strong Barkhane, and the 15,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping force in Mali, one of the hardest-hit countries in the attacks along with Burkina Faso and Niger.