Indonesian Forest Fires Cause Singapore Airpocalypse

28.06.13

Prime minister Lee Hsien Loong advises Singaporeans to stay indoors as much as possible as the smog from neighbouring Indonesia worsens dramatically, causing unprecedented levels of air pollution. Singapore’s pollution standards index hit a record level of 401 which is above the “hazardous” classification that can aggravate respiratory ailments. The previous record before this week was in 1997, when the index reached 226.

Indonesian Forest Fires

Smog from Indonesian forest fires has affected Singapore and Malaysia many times in the past at this time of year however the severity of this week’s episode has strained diplomatic ties. Officials in Singapore have said Jakarta must do more to stop plantation owners and farmers staring fires to clear land cheaply on Sumatra Island. “This is now the worst haze that Singapore has ever faced,” the country’s environment minister, Vivian Balakrishnan, wrote on his Facebook page. Singaporeans have complained of coughs, shops are sold out of face masks, air traffic controllers at Changi airport were told to take precautions due to lower visibility and some hospitals shut windows in wards caring for elderly patients.

The Prime Minister told a news conference that the haze was expected to persist for a number of days because of the weather conditions. He also announced the formation of a government panel to protect public health and the country’s economic resilience. Indonesian officials have defended their response to the haze, saying the government is educating farmers about alternatives to traditional slash-and-burn agriculture. There have also been suggestions that some of the fires might be blamed on Singaporean and Malaysian companies involved in Indonesia’s plantation industry.

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