Malaysia and Indonesia are both using hotspot maps in a public battle over haze responsibility

A map used by Malaysia’s Environment Minister in her argument that the haze did not originate from within the country.
ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre

The recent haze in Malaysia has caused tensions with neighbouring Indonesia, with the two countries’ environment ministers each accusing the other of shirking responsibility for the dusty air.

Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin first addressed the haze issue in a diplomatic note to Malaysia on Friday (Sept 6), Bernama reported.

Her counterpart, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, then allegedly told local media it was a protest letter accusing Indonesia of causing the severe haze that has plagued Malaysia over the past week.

In a Facebook post, the Environment Minister said that up until Saturday (Sept 7), Indonesia had ascertained none of its haze had spread over to neighboring countries.

Kondisi gambaran hotspot hari ini sudah kira-kira sepertiga dari kondisi hotspot pada tanggal 4 dan 5 September. Telah…

Posted by Siti Nurbaya Bakar on Saturday, 7 September 2019

As proof, she attached several screenshots from a forest and land fire monitoring app of Indonesia created by its National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (LAPAN).

The app, which gets its data directly from several sources, including a thermal activity instrument housed on NASA satellites, does not appear to show information about wind direction or hotspots in Malaysia.

Hotspots in Indonesia as of Sept 12.
LAPAN Catalog

Four days later, Siti Nurbaya released an official statement saying haze from Kalimantan had indeed crossed into Malaysia, but for only one hour on Sept 8, local media reported.

She added that the haze Malaysia experienced could have come from Sarawak (which borders Kalimantan) and Peninsular Malaysia, as winds were also blowing from that direction.

“Not all smog is from Indonesia… the Malaysian government should have explained this objectively,” The Guardian quoted her as saying. “There is information that they covered up.”

That same day, Malaysian minister Yeo shot back at the claims with a Facebook post containing her own screenshots of hotspot-related information from the ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre, which was established by the national meteorological agencies of ASEAN member states.

In response to: the…

Posted by Yeo Bee Yin(杨美盈) on Wednesday, 11 September 2019

The site, which displays wind direction and hotspots across ASEAN, said in an update on Sept 11 that haze had been blown from Sumatra to Peninsular Malaysia, and from Kalimantan to adjacent areas in the South China Sea.

“Hotspot activities in Sumatra and Kalimantan are likely to continue under the prevailing dry conditions, and smoke haze from the hotspots may affect parts of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Sarawak,” it added.

According to Yeo’s screenshots, there were seven hotspots in Sabah and Peninsula Malaysia, compared to 862 in Kalimantan and Sumatra.

Yeo added on Facebook that it was not “logically possible” for the haze to have originated from Sarawak as Siti Nurbaya claimed, due to the wind direction.

“Let the data speak for itself,” she wrote, adding: “Minister Siti Nurbaya should not be in denial”.

Hotspots across Indonesia and Malaysia as of Sep 11.
ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre

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