People cover their mouths and noses from the haze from wildfires (Photo: AP) 

Kuala Lumpur (VNA) – Many places across Malaysia are witnessing rising air pollution levels as the southwest monsoon winds blow smoke from land and forest fires in Sumatra, Indonesia, northward. 

Figures from Malaysia's Department of Environment showed the Air Pollutant Index (API) at the ports of Kelang and Shah Alam have reached more than 80 while several other places including Kuala Lumpur have seen the index surpassing 70. 

An API reading of 0 to 50 indicates good air quality, while 51 to 100 means moderate. A reading above 100 means unhealthy levels. 

In recent years, July and August have been the most unpleasant months for Malaysian people as API readings for many of those days surpasses 100, prompting doctors to warn of the risks to people’s health. The major reason behind the situation is due to fires in palm oil plantations in Indonesia . 

Earlier this month, the 10 ASEAN member countries adopted a roadmap which is expected to help ASEAN become a haze-free region by 2020. 

Last year, the Southeast Asian region experienced the worst year for haze since 1997. The Pollutant Standards Index recorded by the Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics at that time gave an API reading of 2,000 – 6 times higher than the “dangerous level” of 350. The haze spread to Singapore , Malaysia , southern Thailand and the Philippines.-VNA