Photographer's Note

This is not the planet Mars – it is what the sun looks like through polluted air. I have done no post processing of this shot except cropping. The colour of the sun is exactly as recorded by the camera. It is not night-time either. It is late afternoon and this was the colour of the sky.

I thought today would be an appropriate day to post this shot because yesterday the Malaysian Government declared a state of emergency in two Malaysian cities – Port Klang and Kuala Selangor – when the Air Pollution Index (API) breached 500. The air pollution is being caused by smoke from illegal land clearing and forest fires on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, which is being carried across to the Malaysian mainland by the south westerly winds that we experience in the dry season at this time of the year. The smoke haze from Indonesia has been a problem in Malaysia and Singapore for the past ten years, as rainforests are being logged and land cleared for agriculture using ‘slash and burn’ techniques.

For ten years the residents of Malaysia have suffered as smoke haze has blanketed the capital of Kuala Lumpur and other cities in the Klang Valley for several months each year. Each year the government has refused to release the API figures for fear of frightening away tourists. On Wednesday of this week, when the air pollution was at its worst since 1997, the government again refused to release the figures with the Deputy Prime Minister saying “the time was not right”. As people started having trouble breathing, developing coughs, runny noses and sore eyes, they protested to the politicians and newspapers. Then finally yesterday, after a Cabinet meeting, the API figures were released for the first time. Apart from the Port Klang and Kuala Selangor figures (529 and 531 respectively), Kuala Lumpur was 321, Putrajaya was 364 and Petaling Jaya (near where I live) was 349 - all in the 'hazardous' API range. All schools in the Klang Valley have shut until further notice. The Subang airport has been closed. All businesses and offices in Port Klang and Kuala Selangor have been ordered shut except for food and drink retailers, pharmacies, banks and essential services.

The API is as follows:

0-50 – Good
51-100 – Moderate
101-200 – Unhealthy
201-300 – Very Unhealthy
300-500 – Hazardous
Over 500 – Emergency

The picture above was taken in February when I guess the API was in the 100-200 range. I didn’t see any point in posting a picture of yesterday’s haze as there wasn’t much to see apart from smoke. Today the haze has eased back to the 250-300 levels, and we are breathing a little easier.

PS: The slight blurriness is due to the air, not camera shake - the photograph was taken on a tripod with a remote release.

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Additional Photos by David Astley (banyanman) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1237 W: 108 N: 2568] (7789)
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