Haze in Singapore hits unhealthy range

Singapore's skyline shrouded in haze.

SINGAPORE: The haze enveloping Singapore reached unhealthy levels on Thursday, with the PSI recording hitting a high of 108.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) says the three—hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading rose to 108 at 6pm, after crossing over the 100—mark at 5pm.

The highest three—hour PSI recorded for Singapore was 226 on 18 September, 1997.

A PSI reading of 0—50 means the air quality is in the good range; 51—100 moderate range; 101—200 unhealthy range; 201—300 very unhealthy; and above 300 hazardous.

NEA says that when the air quality is in the unhealthy range, those with underlying conditions such as chronic heart or lung ailments may experience a mild aggravation of their symptoms.

Those without underlying conditions may also experience eye irritation, sneezing or coughing.

It advises those with underlying conditions to reduce physical exertion and outdoor activities.

But since the haze started clouding the skies on 16 October, the number of people visiting the polyclinics for upper respiratory tract infections has not risen.

Figures provided by SingHealth showed that some 1,300 patients visited its polyclinics with such complaints on Monday, some 1,000 on Tuesday and 940 on Wednesday.

The figures were similar to last week’s attendance.

NEA said on Wednesday that Singapore can expect more hazy days ahead. It also said that hot spot activities in Sumatra are expected to persist or escalate.

The NEA also said Environment Minister Yaacob Ibrahim had on Thursday expressed "deep concern" about the haze to his Indonesian counterpart Gusti Muhammad Hatta.

"Minister expressed his deep concern that the haze situation would further deteriorate if Indonesia does not put in place immediate and enhanced measures to curb the hotspot situation in Sumatra," it read.

"He urged Indonesia to allocate the necessary resources, and implement timely and effective measures to solve the haze situation."

Minister Yaacob also reiterated Singapore’s offer of assistance to augment Indonesia’s efforts to combat the haze problem, including helping to put out the fires in Sumatra.

The problem has also affected Malaysia, where schools in the coastal town of Muar have been closed since Wednesday after the air quality reached dangerous levels.

The haze came less than a week after an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in Brunei on how to deal with the problem. Channel NewsAsia understands the Indonesian minister did not attend that meeting but was at other meetings the next day.

Meanwhile, Singapore’s inter—agency Haze Task Force — comprising representatives from government agencies and chaired by NEA — has also drawn up a set of action plans to mitigate the haze impact.

The task force met on Thursday afternoon to prepare for the activation of the Haze Action Plan to deal with the deteriorating smoke haze situation. The Haze Action Plan spells out the measures that each agency would take to minimise the impact of the haze on the public at different levels of PSI.

The haze was a hot discussion topic on the Internet.

"OMG... No wonder I’m feeling so terrible today," said candycetoh in a message on the social messaging site Twitter.

Eunicekohh tweeted: "I’m already tearing and can’t breathe properly."

In a Facebook post, Farin Jaffar said he was "super irritated" with the haze.

"I can feel my eyes getting watery," he wrote.

Haze caused by the fires in Indonesia builds up during the dry season when farmers clear their land by burning, affecting tourism and contributing to health problems across the region.

Indonesia’s government has outlawed land—clearing by fire but weak law enforcement means the ban is largely ignored.

— CNA/AFP/ir/al