News: MMD warns effects of El Nino may be felt later

The Star, 15 May 2014

PETALING JAYA: It will take a while before the effects of El Nino are fully felt and the delay may even be several months, said the Malaysian Meteorological Department (MMD).

“The El Nino lifespan is normally between six and 18 months. If El Nino is going to occur by next month, the significant impact can only be seen at the end of this year or early next year,” said MMD’s deputy director-general Alui Bahari.

The El Nino phenomenon is characterised by a band of unusually warm ocean water temperatures that periodically develops off the Pacific coast of South America that could cause extreme weather changes across the Pacific region such as fluctuating droughts, floods and scrappy crop yields in some regions.

“El Nino is a slow process. It takes a few months before the impact is felt by the country. Generally, Sabah and Sarawak will be affected the most when it comes to El Nino years,” said Alui.

Some of the countermeasures against prolonged drought would be cloud-seeding operations.

Alui added that further studies had to be conducted before the phenomenon, such as the overly hot Chinese New Year season leading to subsequent water shortages and the recent floods in Kuala Lumpur, could be attributed to climate change.

Department of Environment director-general Datuk Halimah Hassan said her department would be on the lookout for open burning.

“We will step up our enforcement action, with land and aerial surveillance to curb open burning. There’s still a total ban on open burning in Selangor, Malacca, Negri Sembilan, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya since March 2014,” said Halimah, who urged the public to cooperate and not to resort to open burning.

Forum Air Malaysia, an organisation formed to assist the National Water Services Commis­sion (Span), said the Government had to prepare well.

“It must ensure that there will be adequate water supply to all consumers during El Nino,” said manager Foon Weng Lian, who also urged Putrajaya to be more transparent in disseminating information.