As haze worsens, Penang warns public of hefty penalties for open burning

Opalyn Mok
Penang is shrouded in haze, as seen in Butterworth on August 15, 2018. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Aug 16 ― Penangites caught burning things in public will be severely punished, the state government warned today as the haze thickens.

Environmental, Welfare and Caring society committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said the local councils  and the Department of Environment will be very strict in taking enforcement action against those who conduct open burning.

“Commercial open burning is a very serious offence.

“The maximum compound of RM2,000 can also be issued for each offence,” he said when contacted today.

Offenders who are caught can be charged under Section 29(A) of the Environmental Quality Act 1974, which is punishable with a maximum fine of RM500,000, a maximum jail term of five years, or even both.

September marks the Hungry Ghost Month and traditional Chinese Malaysians observe it by burning imitation of material goods made of paper and hell money. The practice remains popular in Penang.

Phee said the Air Pollutant Index (API) readings as at 3pm today were at moderate levels on the island but had breached unhealthy levels on the mainland.

API readings between 51 and 100 shows moderate air quality; from 101 to 200 is unhealthy; 201 to 300 is very unhealthy and those above 300 is hazardous.

The station in Minden on the island half of Penang recorded an API reading of 96 while in Balik Pulau it was 93. Across the channel, the API reading was at 120 for Seberang Jaya and 109 in Perai.

Phee advised the public to reduce their outdoor activities, or wear a face mask when outside and drink more water to counteract the heat and humidity.

He said the state government has prepared 20,000 face masks that will be handed to all assemblymen to be distributed to their constituents.

He said the haze was brought by the southwest monsoon winds from Kalimantan and Sumatra.

The public can access updated API readings at apims.doe.my.

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