|1||Kota Bharu, Kelantan|
|2||Parit Sulong, Johor|
|4||Tanah Merah, Kelantan|
|5||Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu|
|10||Alor Setar, Kedah|
(local time)SEE WORLD AQI RANKING
live AQI index
|Air pollution level||Air quality index||Main pollutant|
|Moderate|| 74 US AQI||PM2.5|
|PM2.5|| 23.1 µg/m³|
|Close your windows to avoid dirty outdoor air|
|Sensitive groups should reduce outdoor exercise|
|Tuesday, Feb 23|
Moderate 99 US AQI
|Wednesday, Feb 24|
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups 104 US AQI
|Thursday, Feb 25|
Moderate 85 US AQI
|Friday, Feb 26|
Moderate 64 US AQI
Moderate 82 US AQI
|Sunday, Feb 28|
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups 110 US AQI
|Monday, Mar 1|
Moderate 94 US AQI
|Tuesday, Mar 2|
Moderate 66 US AQI
|Wednesday, Mar 3|
Moderate 52 US AQI
|Thursday, Mar 4|
Good 37 US AQI
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Air pollution in Kuala Lumpur is something that has been of significant concern for its citizens for many years now, with huge amounts of smoke and haze afflicting the capital every year. Kuala Lumpur has a very tropical climate, with high levels of humidity and rainfall occurring during most of the year. Despite the large amount of rain, which has a very cleansing effect on the atmosphere, Kuala Lumpur still suffers from its infamous smog that usually occurs during the latter part of the year.
To observe the numbers from 2019’s recordings, Kuala Lumpur came in at second place out of the most polluted cities in Malaysia, with Putrajaya taking the first position, although it can be seen that there is data missing from the earlier part of the year for Putrajaya, skewing the results somewhat. The readings of fine particulate matter, or PM2.5 in the air that gave it this ranking came in at 21.5µg/m³, putting it into the ‘moderate’ rating bracket, which requires a PM2.5 rating of between 12.1 to 35.4 µg/m³ to be classed as moderate. PM2.5 or fine particulate matter refers to particles that are 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter, making them approximately 100 times smaller than a human hair, and as such they are a great danger to human health due to their extremely small size and ability to penetrate deep into the lung tissue and enter the bloodstream.
To follow, the pollution and smoke levels cause problems for the citizens of Kuala Lumpur by jumping up to significant figures at certain points in the year, and whilst the city comes in with a fairly low average when the numbers are taken as a sum total at the end of the year, during its worst month of September, the pollution levels reach numbers that rival some of the most polluted countries and cities in the world with ease. A simple search on air pollution in Kuala Lumpur will reveal that a majority if not all of the most condemning articles and blogs are written in the month of September, and for good reason, one which will be discussed in further detail. So, to summarize, for a big metropolitan city the average pollution levels are not particularly disastrous, but when they get bad, which they inevitably do, it is something that is unavoidable and can tarnish the whole year, with highly detrimental effects for anyone caught in the clouds of smoke and haze, particularly sensitive demographics such as children, the elderly and people with preexisting respiratory or cardiovascular conditions or compromised immune systems.
Besides the usual causes of pollution in all major cities across the world such as vehicular emissions, smoke and fumes from factories and other industrial sectors, the air pollution index (API) is sent skyrocketing during certain months of the year by a singular and very well known cause, the slash and burn farming practices taking place in Indonesia, in particular Sumatra contributing the most to this problem. Whilst the whole of south east Asia is affected by this problem in one form or another (whether it be locally made fires or winds blowing smoke and haze from the Indonesian fires over to other neighboring south east Asian countries such as Thailand), it seems to be peninsular Malaysia that suffers the most from this, with state of emergency’s having to be declared, bringing many non-essential services to be closed, as well as other major inconveniences such as the shutting of schools and disrupted air travel.
There have been numerous years that are marked down in history as having been extremely bad with their AQI ratings and levels of PM2.5 in the air, the most noteworthy years being the famous 1997 Southeast Asian haze, as well as the years of 2005, 2006 and 2015 being recorded as having disastrous amounts of pollution lingering in the atmosphere, sometimes taking weeks to disperse and causing a huge amount of health issues and premature deaths amongst the citizens of Malaysia and neighboring Singapore. To summarize, the number one cause in regards to the most dangerous months is the smoke caused by slash and burn farming from Indonesia, whilst the ambient levels of pollution are caused by emissions from the huge number of cars and trucks on the road, as well as factories, giving Kuala Lumpur its year-round ‘moderate’ PM2.5 rating and worsened levels of air quality.
So far, there has been little respite or actual substantial ways of stopping the haze from occurring. There are government initiatives such as rain seeding, whereby artificial clouds are created that create an eventual downpour, but these are transient in nature and once the rain is over the air can quickly return to its original highly polluted states, so essentially practices like rain seeding are putting a band aid over a more serious environmental wound that needs a more hands on approach.
Larger and more powerful initiatives such as the creation of the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution have been put into play, which is a legally recognized agreement whose sole purpose is to reduce the smog and haze that afflicts the whole region, and for the citizens of Kuala Lumpur this is of great importance. The repeated incidences over 2005 and 2006 forced Malaysia and Singapore to put more pressure on Indonesia. All ten countries in ASEAN have signed and ratified the agreement as of September 2014. Despite this the haze continues to plague Kuala Lumpur each year, with the following year of 2015 being another year that was put into the record books for its disastrous levels of haze and smoke permeating the cities air. Whilst the slash and burn farming practice has been made highly illegal and under intense international pressure to be put to a permanent stop, it does not seem to have an end in sight as of yet, with farmers in Indonesia continuing to set fire to their crops, forest land as well as areas of peat soil, which release a plethora of highly toxic chemicals and compounds into the air such as Carbon Monoxide (CO), Carbon Dioxide (CO2), as well as black carbon (BC), the primary component of soot and a byproduct of the incomplete combustion of organic materials and fossil fuels, having disastrous effects on both human health and the environment, being a contributor to global warming.
So whilst there are initiatives being taken to reduce this practice, as well as the introduction of newer, cleaner and more efficient public transport lines in Kuala Lumpur such as their MRT lines and incentives to get the general public to rely less on personal vehicles and thus reduce the ambient pollution levels, it seems to stand that the yearly spike of air pollution from burnt organic material may not be coming to an end in the immediate future, until enough international as well as local pressure takes place to fully put an end to the slash and burn farming practices once and for all.
Going off of the available data as taken from the PM2.5 readings over 2019, the highest level of pollution was recorded during the month of September, with a reading of 59.3 µg/m³, putting this month into the ‘unhealthy’ bracket range. In order to be classed as unhealthy, the reading needs to be anywhere between 55.5 to 150.4 µg/m³. This represents a significant jump from the month prior to it, which came it at 25.5 µg/m³, which shows that the level of PM2.5 doubled within the space of a month. This reads true for many other cities in Malaysia, a large majority of them showing moderate ratings in August before rapidly jumping up to higher numbers in the following month, and then subsequently dropping back down to their previous ambient levels. Although there is a lack of PM2.5 related data to go by in years prior for Malaysia, as mentioned before there are countless blogs and articles online detailing the severity of the haze during the month of September, as well as numerous archived stories recalling the catastrophic pollution levels appearing between August and October. As such it is apparent that September is when the air quality is going to be at its worst in Kuala Lumpur.
Now that it has been firmly established that the main offender for poor air quality in Kuala Lumpur is the fires being started in Indonesia, there are some honorable mentions that have pertinent value to bring up. Although it was briefly touched upon earlier, car pollution is a topic that also needs addressing, as there are numerous records in years past of pollution levels rising to dangerous levels despite there being no fires or drifting clouds of foreign smoke to pin the blame on. There have been comparisons made that the air in Kuala Lumpur is similar to that of Beijing’s, despite being a fraction of the size in terms of population and the number of industrial areas surrounding the city, instead being surrounded with thick forests and jungle that help massively in reducing pollution levels.
Citizens of Kuala Lumpur and indeed the whole country have a major dependency on cars. Fuel prices are exceptionally low, as well as the price of car ownership, set to fall even lower due to the removal of certain taxes regarding the automobile industry (namely the GST tax). Kuala Lumpur also has a long history of large fuel subsidies and large investment into road infrastructure, whilst leaving the public transport industry in the dust behind it. The fallout from this is a huge reliance and overuse of personal cars, contributing heavily to the smoke and haze in the city. A reduction in this and further initiatives to reduce the number of cars on the road (such as car ownership limits, with countries like Singapore placing a cap on the number of vehicles that are allowed in the city) would go a long way to reducing the pollution levels and assist in improving the air quality.