Malaysia ordered shut down of schools due to choking smog

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Who: Malaysian Authorities
What: Ordered shut down of schools
When: 4 October 2015
Why: Due to choking smog

Malaysian authorities on 4 October 2015 ordered shut down of most of the country’s schools for two days because of possible health risks posed by the thick haze from Indonesian forest fires. The handful schools which were excluded from the order are located in outlying areas of the country.

As per the order, the schools will remain closed on 5 October and 6 October 2015.

The action was taken after about half of Malaysia’s 52 pollutant monitoring stations around the country registered unhealthy air quality. Of these 52 stations, six including one in Kuala Lumpur registered very unhealthy levels, with one area in the outskirts of the capital hovering close to the hazardous level.

The Education Minister of Malaysia Mahdzir Khalid said that the haze that is happening is beyond our control. The issue should be dealt wisely and quickly as it can harm children of the country.

How the smog was caused?
The smog was caused due to smoke from forest fires on Sumatra Island which started in mid-August 2015 and gradually became worse in September 2015.

The forest fires resulted from illegal slash-and-burn practices, principally in the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan. The burning practices are practiced for the production of pulp, paper and palm oil and it increases during the dry season.

This has affected several Southeast Asian countries, like Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, by creating thick haze of smog and it is on the track to be the worst on record, surpassing the 9-billion dollar damage, which was recorded in 1997.

Effects of the haze in the region

• It forced shutting down of the Singapore leg of the FINA World Championships, swimming World Cup. This championship included four-time US Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin as a participant.
• One of Malaysia’s biggest marathons was also cancelled because of health fears for the 30000 runners
• Local football league matches have been shelved

Besides, the smog in the second week of September 2015 forced the Indonesian government to declare a state of emergency in Riau province, one of the worst affected areas.

Earlier, a state of emergency was declared in six Indonesian provinces, namely Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan and South Kalimantan by the Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management.