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Dublin: 5°C Saturday 19 June 2021

Not much of a view: Singapore's haze hits crisis levels

The city-state’s pollution index stood at 218 today: 200 is ‘very unhealthy’, and ’300′ is hazardous…

This photo, from reader Anne Ryan, shows the poor visibility in Singapore today.
This photo, from reader Anne Ryan, shows the poor visibility in Singapore today.
Image: Anne Ryan

IT’S NOT MUCH of a view, is it?

The Asian city-state of Singapore has been shrouded in haze today, in the worst pollution crisis for over a decade.

Smoke from forest fires on the neighbouring Indonesian island of Sumatra has been blown across the city, leaving its skyscrapers shrouded in a massive haze which is expected to last into the weekend.

Though the city itself is not directly responsible for the fires, the blazes have been attributed to the actions of local farmers who have been trying to clear land so they can plant palm trees – satisfying the demand for palm oil in Singapore and nearby Malaysia.

The city’s pollution index at midnight on Thursday morning (5pm Irish time) stood at 218, having peaked at 173 during daylight hours.

That reading is the highest since 1997, when officials reported a rating of 226.

A level of 200 is classed as ‘very unhealthy’, while a reading of 300 is deemed hazardous to human health – though the level of dust and smoke has left most of the city’s inhabitants shutting their windows as they struggle to breathe.

The haze problem occasionally diplomatic strains in the pacific rim, as Malaysia and Singapore urge Indonesia to do more to prevent illegal burning.

Malaysia has been only lightly affected so far this year, with pollution readings in Kuala Lumpur, its largest city, not breaching the unhealthy mark.

Indonesia’s forest ministry spokesman, Sumarto Suharno, said the government was continuing to educate farmers about alternatives to traditional slash-and-burn agriculture.

“We have been able to reduce the regional haze problem significantly for years with help from local communities and will continue to undertake all efforts to prevent it from spreading,” he said.

Additional reporting by AP

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Gavan Reilly

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