As climate change engulfs Malaysia, water-bomber tries to douse Penang Hill fires

The Bombardier 415 water-bomber fighting the Penang Hill fires this morning.

Amidst a surreal hazy backdrop, a Canadian-made Bombardier 415 Super Scooper continued its aerial water-bombing this morning in a bid to douse the persistent Penang Hill fires.

The amphibious aircraft, operated by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, made about a dozen runs after 11.00am, scooping up sea water off Gurney Drive and dropping it on the hill areas above the Penang Botanic Garden.

The water-bomber swoops over the sea off Gurney Drive earlier today

The runs were made every five to eight minutes after the water pick-ups, which lasted about 15 seconds each time the aircraft touched down on the sea.

According to Wikipedia, the aircraft requires 1340m of flyable area to descend from 15m altitude, scoop 6137 litres of water during a 12-second 410m-long run on the water at 130km/h, and then climb back to 15m altitude.

The smoky backdrop may be a prelude of things to come in a world where many refuse to acknowledge worsening climate change and instead continue to worship at the Altars of Development, Consumerism and Economic Growth. It is Business As Usual. Make hay while the sun shines. But hey, has anyone noticed, the sun ain’t shining anymore! Well, we can still shop till we drop – a task made easier as many are increasingly weighed down by a growing debt burden. Ah, the price of Progress.

The key questions playing in my mind right now are these: are these simultaneous fires caused by the dry spell and if so what is causing the dry spell? Is it a natural seasonal occurrence (but then we have never before witnessed so many fires breaking out simultaneously, have we)? Or is the dry spell caused by the worsening the environmental degradation of Penang Hill or climate change or both?

The smouldering fires wisps of smoke from the forests of Penang Hill - Photograph: hilmiadi/Instagram
The smouldering fires emit wisps of smoke from the forests of Penang Hill today – Photograph: hilmiadi/Instagram

View of Penang Hill fires from Vale of Tempe, Tanjung Bungah, at 4.30 pm, 26 Feb 2014
View of Penang Hill fires from Vale of Tempe, Tanjung Bungah, at 4.30pm, 26 February 2014

Do you see the fires still smouldering where you are? And what do you think is causing these fires?

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2 Mar 2014 4.21pm

How many refuse collection companies have access to proper dump sites – for all their loads and not just namesake? How many industries have demonstrated sustainable disposal of their waste before being licenced? How many small buinesses try to minimise expenses for refuse collection by burning their own rubbish? How much of recycling is based on incineration? How many farmers and landed house-owners burn an excessive amount of biomass? The answer to all these from the tuans would be “tak tahu”. They will say climate change does not affect Bolehland because we are special.

1 Mar 2014 12.39pm

Am wondering whether this is part of the El NiƱo El Nina cycle?

1 Mar 2014 9.12am

GREED has a price, whether it is for high end development in unsustainable manner or unwarranted covetousness of maxi-profiteering from manipulated property market. The price will be paid by all, regardless of social class or creed. The only difference is the 1% of society can easily escape the ‘heat’ or discomforts of environmental disasters by just flying away to nicer havens. The vision of Cosmopolitan Penang is not a perfect dream flawed with land development (without a Local Plan) that caters to the whimsical whims & ego-inflated fancies of those with financial clout in a free market to determine an… Read more »

1 Mar 2014 12.58am

It is not easy for tropical forest to cause spontaneous burning due to high humid.
However, looking at that area, it looks like somebody attempt to start a fire,i.e. illegally burn rubbish/construction materials.
It is common practice across Malaysia. Developer try to safe hundred to thousands of cost dumping construction trash, nothing faster than burning it in some remote area to cover their crime.