Malaysia bakes under worsening heatwave as temperatures near 40 degrees
Malaysia is rolling out emergency measures to deal with a worsening heatwave, after temperatures edging close to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) claimed a life and threatened crop yields.

Almost half of Peninsular Malaysia has been experiencing peaks of at least 35 degrees for three straight days, according to the latest data from the Meteorological Department, which expects the hot and dry spell to last until mid-April.

The extreme heat has led to the death of a 22-year-old from heat stoke, heightened the risk of water shortages, and caused severe loss of yields on farms.
Construction workers erect scaffolding in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia’s government is looking into ways to protect construction workers who toil for hours under the hot sun. Photo: EPA-EFE

The country is employing drones to survey peatlands susceptible to catching fire, and monitoring dwindling water levels in dams, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad said in an interview on Monday. The government will also look into ways to protect construction workers who toil for hours under the hot sun.

“For the most foreseeable events, we have the guidelines, systems and policies in place, but we constantly need to adjust them as the magnitude always changes,” Nik Nazmi said.

Climate change could further exacerbate the situation, the minister said.

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“I think it’s crucial that people realise that climate change is not some abstract doomsday or, you know, a hippie nightmare”, said Nik Nazmi. In the worst-case scenario, the government is prepared to close down schools and even businesses.

Singapore is also reeling under the heat with temperatures over 36 degrees recorded in some parts of the country on March 24. Some schools in the island-state eased uniform requirements because of the persistently high heat, according to notices sent to parents.

I think it’s crucial that people realise that climate change is not some abstract doomsday or, you know, a hippie nightmare

Malaysia’sEnvironment Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad

As a long-term response to more frequent and severe heatwaves, Malaysian authorities plan to invest in heat-resistant crops. “The heat has led to problems with our imported rice and that has put more pressure on us, so the agriculture ministry is looking into that seriously,” said Nik Nazmi.

The country is working with the United Nations’ climate bank, the Green Climate Fund, to prepare a National Adaptation Plan to be rolled out from 2026, he said. That would go beyond emissions mitigation and address issues surrounding water security, agriculture, infrastructure and public health in the face of climate change.

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