The Great Singapore Haze

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June 20, 2013 by alansoh79


Since the 1990s, we Singaporeans would expect the haze coming from Sumatra, Indonesia. It happens once a year, every year.

I am among thousands of Singaporeans who dislike the haze.

This happens because local farmers in palm oil plantations use the slash-and-burn forest method to clear land before they do farming. Most farmers think that it is the cheapest and the easiest way to do it.

According to the Indonesian authorities, palm oil plantations are essential because they help to create employment and improve incomes in the country.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) in Singapore tracks the level of air quality by using the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI), measuring the amount of air pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and PM10 (particulate matter 10 microns or smaller in size). It has a scale of 0 – 400. Any reading that is above 100 is unhealthy, and anything higher than 300 is hazardous.

The Education Ministry (MOE) says schools have to stop all outdoor activities including physical education lessons when the PSI crosses 100. Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) says they will scale back physical and outdoor combat trainings if the air becomes unhealthy.

To keep the public updated about the haze situations, NEA publishes hourly updates of its 3-hour average PSI readings on its official website. For example, a 4pm update is averaged from the readings taken at 2pm, 3pm and 4pm.

The worst record was a PSI reading of 226 in September 1997.

For many of us, it has been unbearably hot and humid especially at night for the past few months. For once, it was 35 degree celsius. We have had to switch on electric fans or air-conditioner indoors or at home.

The haze came a couple weeks ago.

On Monday 17 June, the reading hit 155. Since then, hourly PSI readings are also shown on national television channels and local news websites to keep everyone updated.

All of us didn’t expect that the worst PSI reading came yesterday (Wednesday 19 June). Yes, it was shocking.
2pm – 170.

3pm – 172.

4pm – 158.

5pm – 146.

6pm – 144.

7pm – 161.

8pm – 190.

9pm – 290.

10pm – 321!

(Unveiled at about 10.45pm)

MY GOODNESS. “Well done”. Singapore has broken the 1997 record. Many Singaporeans have expressed shock and disbelief on social media when they received the news.

After 8pm, I did expect that the number may climb higher slightly, but not to such an extent at 9pm. The 10PM reading has made me speechless.

Yeah ya. While the annual Great Singapore Sale season is ongoing (31 May – 28 July), it is now also the Great Singapore Haze season. :X

Minister for Environment & Water Resources, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan has convened a press media conference at 11pm plus last night.

He noted that this is the worst haze situation Singapore has ever faced. He says NEA’s CEO Andrew Tan will be leading a Singapore team to Jakarta to attend an emergency haze meeting convened by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Indonesia. The Manpower Ministry (MOM) will also decide whether a stop-work order will be issued depending on the severity of the haze situation.

The only real solution is to deal with the source of the problem, which is the indiscriminate burning of land in Indonesia, Dr Vivian said.

“Indonesia must stop new fires. We are publishing the high-resolution satellite pictures, including the coordinates of all hotspots, and NEA is going to update this on a daily basis. We (Singapore Government) are still urging the Indonesian authorities to publish the concession maps so that we can link the hotspots specifically to the individual companies”

NEA also said that the dry weather conditions and prevailing winds blowing the haze into Singapore are expected to persist for the next few days.

Ohhh gawd. We want rain. Yes. Rain to wash away the haze!!!!!

We want clean fresh air so badly now!~

In meantime, we just have to take special precautions as we go about our daily routines, especially for the young and old. Drink more water. Stay indoors as much as possible. Close windows and doors. Turn on the fans or air-conditioner. Minimise outdoor activities as much as possible too.

Wear a face mask if required. Most importantly, see doctor if one is feeling unwell.

LATEST NOTE: The 3-hour PSI hit another new high – 401 on 12noon dated Friday 21 June 2013.


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