For the past couple of weeks Malaysia has been wheezing under a blanket of haze.
The haze is actually smoke from forest and peat fires in neighbouring Sumatra and the seasonal south west monsoon is causing the smoke to waft over much of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore.
Some of these fires are set deliberately by plantation companies to clear rainforest for the planting of palm oil.
Despite efforts by the Indonesian Government to extinguish the fires (and prosecute those responsible), the air quality in much of Malaysia has continued to deteriorate.
The air in the KL area is now fairly unpleasant and people are starting to get sore throats and itchy eyes. Children are hoping the reading will reach 200 at which level schools have to close.
As you can see from this map, the air quality in Singapore is even worse (181 – close to very unhealthy). Meanwhile over in Pekanbaru, Sumatra where the fires originate, the API is a whopping 685.
Compare this to nearby countries. Over in Bangkok, not renowned for its crisp air, the air pollution index is a fresh and healthy 31, and even in Manila, with its gas-belching buses and jeepneys, the reading is lower than KL at 149.
Spare a thought for those poor folk in Dandong, on the border between North Korea and China where the reading is an asphyxiating 974!
Malaysia’s weather forecasters say conditions should improve within the next week or so as the transitional monsoon brings more rain. But this choking haze problem has become an annual event. The only light at the end of the tunnel is that in ten year’s time there will probably be no rainforest left in Sumatra and nothing to burn!