Photo by Kelvin Koh
Why the haze?
Every year, between June to August, traditional method of clearing land is employed in Indonesia, i.e. slash-and-burn. Large areas of land are cleared to make way for new batches of agriculture. On top of that, it is also the dry season for the southern Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region, resulting in forest fires. Persistent dry weather coupled with land clearing results in transboundary haze, affecting the region. We often dubbed the period as the “Haze Season”.
This year, the haze situation started from Sunday, 16th June. According to the Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, the situation is 'an industrial-scale deforestation and irresponsible commercial exploitation of the land' rather than the simple slash-and-burn agriculture.
How bad is it?
This is Singapore's worst haze reading since September 1997, when the Pollution Standards Index (PSI) peaked at 226.
At 1:00pm (GMT +8) on 20th June 2013, the PSI index hit a new record high, soaring to 371, well past the hazardous standards according to National Environment Agency (NEA)’s guidelines. Any reading above 300 is 'hazardous' while a reading above 400 is deemed 'life-threatening to ill and elderly people,' according to NEA guidelines.
Update: The PSI reading at 11:00am (GMT +8) on 21st June has reached 400.
Places that are affected
Singapore is not the only country that is affected by the haze.
The haze in the southern region of Malaysia was so bad that 200 schools are forced to close, as air quality plunges to hazardous levels in the state of Johor. In Malacca, individuals’ health are increasingly affected by the haze. According to the State Health and Sports Development Committee chairman Datuk Ab Rahaman Ab Karim, there are 355 cases of respiratory and eye ailments compared to 159 on Monday.
Riau Islands, Indonesia has declared state of emergency as PSI hit 341 on 19th June 2013, with visibility limited to 50m.
If you must visit Singapore, do come prepared with N95 masks that can filter 95% of airborne particles as well as eyedrops in case of eye irritation. N95 masks are mostly sold out in Singapore at time of publication so pack some into your luggage before coming to Singapore. Hydrate yourself often as haze is known to cause throat irritation. If you experience any difficulties in breathing, chest pains, eye irritation, consult a doctor immediately.
You can monitor the hourly updates of PSI levels here. If the levels go beyond 200, try to stay indoors as much as possible.
|PSI Levels||Air Quality Deceptor|
Here are some pictures of the haze situation shared by our contributors. If you have any pictures you want to share with us, do drop us an email!