Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Haze in Singapore 'unhealthy' - worst in 16 years

Update: Haze in Singapore "hazardous" - all-time high

HAZE OFFICIALLY AT 'UNHEALTHY' LEVELS

Haze update: Three-hour PSI is 152 at 9pm - exceeding the previous peak reading recorded on October 7, 2006 of 150

Singapore's haze situation worsened Today with the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading 111 at 4pm. It had earlier climbed from 55 at 9am to 80 at 12pm, according to the National Environment Agency (NEA).

Readings over 100 are classified as “unhealthy”. 

The haze from Indonesia is visible across many parts of Singapore and the smell of burning is strong



Haze in Singapore reaches 'unhealthy' level, worst in 16 years

AFP News/Roslan Rahman - A view from Mount Faber shows haze covering Singapore, on June 17, 2013. Singapore is shrouded in a smoky-smelling haze as pollution from forest fires in Indonesia's Sumatra island spreads to neighbouring countries

The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) on Tuesday at 9am reached 115 which is still within the "unhealthy" range.

On Monday at 10pm, the reading hit 155, the highest Singapore has seen in 16 years.  The PSI has been climbing steadily since Monday from 55 at 9am to 80 at 12pm and crossed into the "unhealthy" range of 105 at 3pm, according to the National Environment Agency (NEA). Any reading between 101 and 200 is considered “unhealthy”.

The smoky-smelling haze from Indonesia shrouded skylines and was visible on street level at various places.  Marina Bay Sands was cloaked in smoke as the burnt smell pervaded the central business district - Watch Video



Worsening haze angers Singaporeans, tourists
A boat sails along the Marina bay in front of buildings blanketed by haze in Singapore on June 19, 2013. Photo courtesy: AFP

Singapore's smog problem from forest fires in Indonesia worsened Wednesday as air pollutant levels reached a 16-year high.

Foreign tourists and convention delegates joined Singaporeans in complaining about the smoky haze enveloping the city-state of 5.3 million inhabitants, which welcomed 14.4 million visitors in 2012. The Pollutant Standards Index soared to 172 at 3 pm (0700 GMT), well past the officially designated "unhealthy" threshold of 100, according to the National Environment Agency (NEA) website.

It was Singapore's worst haze reading since September 1997 when the number peaked at 226

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Singapore, Indonesia tussle over haze problem
photo_1371524466151-1-HD.jpg
A tourist takes pictures in front of the Marina Bay Sands hotel as it is blanketed by haze, in Singapore, on June 17, 2013. Smog from forest fires in Indonesia stayed at unhealthy levels in Singapore on Tuesday as the two neighbours blamed each other for the seasonal problem. (AFP)

Smog from forest fires in Indonesia stayed at unhealthy levels in Singapore on Tuesday as the two neighbours blamed each other for the seasonal problem.

Singapore's Pollutant Standards Index stood at 115 as offices opened -- still above the "unhealthy" threshold of 100 but down from the peak reached late Monday when the entire island was shrouded by a smoky haze.

Most commuters walked in bright sunshine on Tuesday without covering their faces despite the lingering smell of burnt wood in the business district.

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Health fears rise as haze worsens


The worsening haze has led to respiratory-related ailments for business undergraduate Wendi Lai and her family, who complained of breathing difficulties and tightness in the chest.

It has been particularly troubling for Ms Lai, as she also has the flu and believes the haze worsened her sore throat, which had been improving.

"I had to see a doctor on Sunday, and he told me I had lung irritation (due to the haze)," the 19-year-old said



Singaporeans wake up to another hazy day as readings stay at unhealthy level

View from Mount Sophia at 8.30am on Tuesday. Singaporeans woke up to another day of haze on Tuesday as the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) hovered at 115 at 9am. -- PHOTO: TWITTER USER joanna_jane 

Singaporeans woke up to another day of haze on Tuesday as the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) hovered at 121 at 10am.

The National Environment Agency released figures showing the country's air quality at 8am to be in the unhealthy range of 109-122. Anything above 100 is unhealthy. NEA figures showed the South region of Singapore to be the worst hit.

The haze was the worst in 16 years at 10pm on Monday, with a PSI reading of 155, before dipping slightly to 145 at midnight



Southeast Asian Haze: Who’s To Blame?

The sun rises through a thick haze over the skyline of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on June 17

Just when it seemed safe to take a deep breath in Southeast Asia, the smoky haze that envelops the region each year is wafting up from Indonesian forests again.

Increasingly, though, experts aren’t just blaming Indonesians, who in the past have been accused of recklessly burning forest land on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan to make way for palm oil plantations – a practice that produces the smoke that then drifts northward over  Singapore and Malaysia. Indonesian authorities have typically said they are doing their best to police the problem, which is hard to do given the country’s vast size and limited enforcement resources.

The question is whether other actors are fanning the flames, says Anthony Tan, executive director of the Centre for Environment, Technology & Development, Malaysia (CETDEM).

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The Art Of Throwing Smoke

The city in the distance is barely visible

He was silent when the freedom of the internet was threatened by the likes of Yaacob Ibrahim.  He was just as quiet when the number of dengue cases crept past the 10,000 mark. He did not chime in when Vivian Balakrishnan waded into the hawker center scaffolding dissertation. So what keeps our prime minister awake at nights? Nobody would have guessed it was the beautiful view of the skyline from the Istana's manicured lawn, a sight none of us will ever get to see at the crack of dawn. Lee posted a Facebook photo of the haze taken at the Istana, commenting: "The city in the distance is barely visible. We are all affected by the haze."

At stake, of course, are the tourist arrivals, who had not planned to travel all the way to see the Merlion engulfed in smoke. Said national icon is permitted to spit 24/7 to its heart's content, but smoking is strictly prohibited. Some laws are simply not allowed to be applied with a light touch. Too bad the peasants have to put up with watery eyes, and coughing fits.

Instead of dialling up President of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono direct - and remind him how little he is paid for running a country of 247,496,843 people - Lee deputised Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam to call their Indonesian counterparts to register Singapore's "serious concerns" about the situation and to offer help to fight the fires there.

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Singapore Government can do more to tackle haze

The PSI stood at an unhealthy 155 at 10 pm last night. The Minister of Environment and Water Resources has now conveyed his deep distress about the haze – the worst in seven years – to his Indonesian counterpart. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, K Shanmugam, has also registered Singapore’s concerns about the worsening haze situation to the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister.

In offering the Singapore government’s assistance, the Minister for  Environment and Water Resources suggested that the Indonesians name the companies responsible for the fires. The Minister, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, said that he was waiting for Indonesia to publish the concession maps, for with these maps, in combination with satellite photos, the errant companies would be better pin-pointed. In his Facebook post, Dr Vivian insinuated commercial boycott of such errant companies.

Haze is not a new problem. Year-after-year, the Singapore government has complained to the Indonesian authorities about this environmental  predicament. Complaining to Indonesia will only do that much especially since Indonesia has not even ratified the ASEAN Agreement of Transboundary Haze Pollution – a regional arrangement that binds a group of contiguous states to tackle transboundary haze pollution resulting from land and forest fire.

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NEA urging Indonesia to do something about haze

The highest PSI ever recorded in Singapore was 226 in 1997. I’m not sure if the NEA has enough clout to pressure the Indonesian authorities when even our ministers’ complaints have fallen on deaf ears over the past 2 decades. The Indonesian ministers have even rebutted on those occasions when we were worst hit, saying the region, and the world, should be THANKFUL for the oxygen that Sumatran forests have provided to make the air ‘cool’ for us.

President Suharto did apologise, however, for the bush fires which they have failed to stop despite imposing bans on the slash-and-burn practice, but it was a pretty useless apology indeed, as we watch the PSI shoot up the charts on the top left corner of the TV screen and forced to cancel our plans of family kite-flying at Marina Bay. Susilo Bambang apologised again in 2006, but we’ve reached a point in our negotiations where it’s ‘Sorry no cure’, Indonesia. Your haze has ruined many a lung and a childhood thanks to your wilful negligence. Give me back the outdoor vigorous exercise that you stole from me, dammit.

Yaacob Ibrahim was involved in ASEAN taking ‘serious steps’ to stop the haze back in 2007, where he called for less meetings and more implementation. Jakarta boasted of a $150 US million dollars action plan then, which aimed to halve forest fires that year. All that money seemed to have gone up in smoke.  In 2010, ex-minister George Yeo personally called his Indonesian counterpart to complain about the haze and offer help, but the response then was a wimpy admission of weak forestry enforcement i.e they could do nothing about it. Vivian Balakrishnan followed up in 2011 with a letter stressing the need for ‘immediate measures’ because the haze was bad for business, namely F1 business. Indonesia declined our offer to help because they felt things were ‘under control’.  Never mind then, we went ahead with the damn F1 anyway, an event which generates a mini-haze and plenty of hot air of its own. As if things weren’t smoky enough. Our PM also joined the nagging, expressing ‘disappointment’ over the haze problem, alas, amounting to nothing more than trying to douse a hotspot with a bucket of ice.

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Who's to blame for the haze


A problem that could not be solved even before my children were born must have deep roots which go everywhere. The sort that the cure is worse than the problem at least from some powerful vested interests point of view.


This wouldn't appear in our ST and yet another of many opportunities the foreign media make ours look sloppy. WSJ: Southeast Asian Haze: Who's to blame? 

The story is a year old and it still begs the question how many companies involved in clearing land by fire are affiliated to Singapore and Malaysia?

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For Fans of the Singapore Flyer

The Singapore Flyer went into receivership just after five years of operations, but we think it may be more useful as a haze fighter

Update via Yahoo: Singapore, Indonesia tussle over haze problem 

"A ministry official, Hadi Daryanto, also attempted to shift some of the blame onto Malaysia and Singapore, saying their palm oil companies that had invested in Indonesia were also responsible. 

"The slash-and-burn technique being used is the cheapest land-clearing method and it is not only used by local farmers, but also employees of palm oil investors including Singaporean and Malaysian companies," he said. "We hope the governments of Malaysia and Singapore will tell their investors to adopt proper measures so we can solve this problem together." 

But Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore's minister for environment and water resources, kept up the pressure on Indonesia.In remarks carried Tuesday by Singapore media, he said "commercial interests in Indonesia have been allowed to override environmental concerns."

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PM Lee shares a photo of the haze taken from Istana


We are all affected by the haze. Farmers and plantation owners in Sumatra are burning crops to clear land in the dry season, and unfortunately the winds are blowing the smoke all the way to Singapore. Ministers Vivian and Shanmugam have called their Indonesian counterparts to register our serious concerns and offer our help to fight the fires.

We are monitoring the situation closely and will stay in close touch with the Indonesian authorities. Meanwhile, please stay indoors whenever you can, especially children, seniors and those prone to respiratory problems. And do monitor NEA’s website (or use their myEnv app) for the latest updates. – LHL 

http://app2.nea.gov.sg/corporate-functions/newsroom/advisories/update-on-haze-situation-17June2013

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A hazy situation

No one really cares very much about Asean, frankly. Unless the haze comes around. That’s when some action needs to be taken and it can’t just be done by a tiny country. That’s why we need to be in a regional grouping in the hope that the collective will weigh in on our behalf to get another country moving. Or at least hope that other countries are in the same state and will add to our voice.

So it is with the haze, except that Asean seems to have been quite toothless over the years never mind a supposedly landmark transboundary agreement concluded more than 10 years ago. The point is, agreements are just that…agreements and even one is inked, they have to be ratified. That is, the legislatures in the various countries have to say they agree with what’s on paper – and more importantly, will implement them.

And 10 years later, Indonesia still hasn’t ratified the agreement.

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6 WAYS TO BEAT THE HAZE PROBLEM IN SINGAPORE


The haze season is back, and you are feeling the effects of it. 

Short of moving to a foreign country with pristine air until the wind blows all the smog away, it is difficult to completely escape the haze. However, there are ways to reduce your discomfort and alleviate your symptoms.

Here are some of them.

1) Avoid exposure

2) Stay indoors and keep the air clean

3) Wear a mask

4) Alleviating the symptoms

5) Home and natural remedies

6) Change your diet 

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Singapore haze hits seven-year high
CSMonitor.com, 17 Jun 2013
In usually clear Singapore, the pollutant standards index hit the highest level in nearly seven years, with the taste of smoke hitting the back of the throat even in air-conditioned offices and the subway.


"Given the current hazy conditions, it is advised that children, the elderly and those with heart or lung diseases reduce prolonged or heavy outdoor activities," Singapore's National Environment Agency said in a statement.
"Everyone else should limit prolonged or heavy outdoor activities." Full story
 
Related:

  1. Singapore, Malaysia choke as illegal Indonesia forest fires rage - Reuters
  2. Singapore hit by haze from Indonesia forest fires - Malaysia Star
  3. Haze reaches 'unhealthy' level in Singapore - Yahoo! News Singapore
Also read: Malaysian PM urges citizens to take precaution as haze worsens - New Straits Times


Singapore chokes on haze from deforestation fires



Singapore and Malaysian officials have asked Indonesia to take "urgent measures" to address forest fires in Sumatra that are sending choking haze northward, reports AFP

Singapore's air pollution index is at the worst level since 2006, when Sumatra last experienced severe fires. The city-state's Pollutant Standards Index on Monday topped 150, well above the "unhealthy" threshold of 100, according to the National Environment Agency (NEA) web site.

"NEA has alerted the Indonesian Ministry of Environment on the haze situation experienced in Singapore, and urged the Indonesian authorities to look into urgent measures to mitigate the transboundary haze occurrence," said the agency in a statement. "NEA will continue to monitor the situation closely and provide further updates when necessary."
Burning by Asia Pulp & Paper contributes to haze in Indonesia, Malaysia



Singapore, Malaysia choke as illegal Indonesia forest fires rage



Air pollution in Singapore and Malaysia rose to unhealthy levels on Monday thanks to illegal forest clearing in Indonesia, prompting Singapore to advise people against staying outdoors for long and to urge Indonesia to do something to stop it.

In usually clear Singapore, the pollutant standards index hit the highest level in nearly seven years, with the taste of smoke hitting the back of the throat even in air-conditioned offices and the subway.

"Given the current hazy conditions, it is advised that children, the elderly and those with heart or lung diseases reduce prolonged or heavy outdoor activities," Singapore's National Environment Agency said in a statement.



Crying need to solve haze problem

All Asean members must act fast to tackle this annual phenomenon

IF one didn't know any better, it looked very much like a cold, wintry morning in the United Kingdom over the weekend in many parts of Malaysia. Only, it wasn't cold, but hot and humid.

You don't really have to go outside of your house or the building you're in to know the haze has made its annual pilgrimage to Malaysia. On Saturday and Sunday, the Air Pollutant Index (API) readings in certain areas reached unhealthy levels.


Singapore haze hits seven-year high


Singapore haze caused by illegal forest-clearing in Indonesia. Because of Singapore haze, officials urge residents to avoid prolonged activities outdoors.

Air pollution in Singapore and Malaysia rose to unhealthy levels on Monday thanks to illegal forest clearing in Indonesia, prompting Singapore to advise people against staying outdoors for long and to urge Indonesia to do something to stop it.

"Given the current hazy conditions, it is advised that children, the elderly and those with heart or lung diseases reduce prolonged or heavy outdoor activities," Singapore's National Environment Agency said in a statement.



Haze #sghaze

– Breakfast Network: A hazy situation
– TOC: Singapore Government can do more to tackle haze
– New Nation: Reform Party wants to repatriate Indonesians due to haze
– [FB] Ravi Philemon: “The Singapore government has got to come clean

– A Singaporean In Australia: Fumigation 
– Everything Also Complain: NEA urging Indonesia to do something about haze
– Blogging for Myself: Who’s to blame for the haze


read more



Cranes standing above an apartment complex under construction are visible through a heavy smoke haze in Singapore June 18, 2013. Air pollution in Singapore and Malaysia rose to unhealthy levels on Monday thanks to illegal forest clearing in Indonesia, prompting Singapore to advise people against staying outdoors for long and to urge Indonesia to do something to stop it. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

Couple has their wedding photos taken in front of the hazy skyline of Singapore
Couple has their wedding photos taken in front of the hazy skyline of Singapore
Visitors take photos at an observation deck of Marina Bay Sands Skypark overlooking the haze covered skyline of Singapore
Workers take a break in front of the hazy skyline of Singapore
Hotel guest rests in the pool of the Marina Bay Sands Skypark in front of the hazy skyline of Singapore
A hotel guest swims in the pool of the Marina Bay Sands Skypark overlooking the haze covered skyline of Singapore
Haze in Singapore worsens to "unhealthy" range, PSI reading passes 100-mark
Haze in Singapore worsens to "unhealthy" range, PSI reading passes 100-mark
Tourists look at the Singapore Flyer on a hazy day in Singapore
Singapore Flyer is pictured on a hazy day in Singapore
Man fishes on breakwater along East Coast park on a hazy day in Singapore
People jog past the hazy skyline of the Tanjong Rhu residential area in Singapore
Man rides past hazy skyline of Tanjong Rhu residential area in Singapore
Man walks past new National Stadium under construction on a hazy evening in Singapore