Map of air pollution in Kuching, Singapore.
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Kuching most polluted as Malaysia haze continues

For several weeks in late 2019, Kuching’s air quality was regularly in the “very unhealthy” category on the US Air Quality Index. Learn why and what made this region’s air pollution so extraordinary in 2019.

There is no let-up for Malaysians fed up with the haze. For several weeks in late 2019, data from air quality monitors located in the region showed that Kuching’s air quality was regularly been in the “very unhealthy” category on the US Air Quality Index, which means that everyone – not just sensitive groups like children and the elderly – experienced serious health effects.


World’s most polluted cities ranking
The capital of Malaysia’s Sarawak province, Kuching, is at no. 1 again on Tuesday morning


Another area in Sarawak, eastern Malaysia, experienced even more polluted skies. Sri Aman’s pollution was at hazardous levels throughout 2019, with those levels forecast to continue well into afternoons when the pollution normally decreases or subsides.


Air pollution in Malaysia’s Sri Aman town
Air pollution in Malaysia’s Sri Aman town in Sarawak is at hazardous levels on Tuesday morning


Malaysia cancelled several flights owing to poor visibility from the thick airborne pollutants, and some schools in Sarawak state, of which Kuching is the capital, were closed at times due to the major health threats posed by poor air quality.

What caused Kuching's air quality to be so bad?

Smoke in Sarawak state came from forest fires on Sumatra and Borneo islands, where thousands of schoolchildren were told to stay at home to avoid breathing in more smoke.

Forest fires are a seasonal problem in Indonesia, but drier weather in 2019 made them more acute. Many fires were lit on purpose to clear land quickly for farming – as was the case in the Amazon during a period of raging wildfires in those regions, too.

The fires also affected Singapore air quality, with the haze respecting no boundaries. The city state rose to no. 6 on AirVisual’s polluted major city rankings for a brief time during these wildfires.


Singapore air quality ranking
Several places in Singapore are experiencing “very unhealthy” air quality levels on Tuesday morning
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