Haze is back, and it could be hang­ing around for a while

Air qual­ity close to ‘un­healthy’ yes­ter­day and may get worse de­pend­ing on wind con­di­tions and hot spots

The New Paper - - FRONT PAGE - CHEOW SUE-ANN

As the haze edged omi­nously close to un­healthy lev­els yes­ter­day, Sin­ga­pore res­i­dents were warned to ex­pect it to per­sist for the next few days.

The Na­tional En­vi­ron­ment Agency (NEA) said the hazy con­di­tions yes­ter­day were due to smoke haze blown here by pre­vail­ing winds from per­sis­tent hot spots in the In­done­sian is­land of Su­ma­tra.

With pre­vail­ing winds fore­cast to blow from the south­east or south and with hot spot ac­tiv­i­ties ex­pected to per­sist, the haze could con­tinue to af­fect Sin­ga­pore for the next few days, NEA said in a state­ment.

On the agency’s web­site yes­ter­day, the 24-hour Pol­lu­tant Stan­dards In­dex (PSI), a mea­sure of air qual­ity, showed a steady rise to­wards un­healthy lev­els.

The PSI in south­ern Sin­ga­pore, the most af­fected area, was 99 at 3pm and 98 at 4pm, just be­low the 101 un­healthy mark.

Over the next 24 hours, the one-hour PM2.5 con­cen­tra­tion read­ings are ex­pected to range be­tween nor­mal and el­e­vated, and the 24-hour PSI is fore­cast to be in the high end of the mod­er­ate range, NEA said.

The PM2.5 read­ing re­flects the con­cen­tra­tion of tiny par­ti­cles less than 2.5 mi­crome­tres in di­am­e­ter in the air.

When the read­ing hits el­e­vated, these par­ti­cles can af­fect the heart and lungs, par­tic­u­larly in peo­ple who have chronic con­di­tions such as asthma.

NEA said: “Given the air qual­ity fore­cast for the next 24 hours, healthy per­sons should re­duce pro­longed or stren­u­ous out­door phys­i­cal ex­er­tion.

“The el­derly, preg­nant women and chil­dren should min­imise pro­longed or stren­u­ous out­door phys­i­cal ex­er­tion, while those with chronic lung or heart disease should avoid pro­longed or stren­u­ous out­door phys­i­cal ex­er­tion.”

Also of con­cern is the steady in­crease in the num­ber of hot spots de­tected in Su­ma­tra.

The 113 hot spots de­tected on Satur­day last week had risen to 380 by Mon­day.

Yes­ter­day, a to­tal of 537 hot spots were de­tected, said NEA.

Malaysia has been more se­verely af­fected, with the state of Sarawak on Bor­neo is­land reach­ing “un­healthy” lev­els in air qual­ity.

As one district hit the “very un­healthy” mark and 400 schools closed yes­ter­day, half a mil­lion face masks were sent to Sarawak.

Sev­eral ar­eas in penin­su­lar Malaysia, in­clud­ing the cap­i­tal Kuala Lumpur, were in the “un­healthy” range. Rompin, a town in Pa­hang state, hit “very un­healthy” lev­els last night.

NEA said the haze in Sin­ga­pore may also hit the “un­healthy” range de­pend­ing on wind con­di­tions and the fires in Su­ma­tra.

Mr Ben­jamin Tay, executive di­rec­tor for Sin­ga­pore char­ity PM.Haze (Peo­ple’s Move­ment to Stop Haze), said favourable wind di­rec­tions had helped Sin­ga­pore avoid the worst of the haze from the Su­ma­tra fires, which have been burn­ing over the past two months.

But this is now chang­ing, he told The Straits Times.

LIT­TLE IM­PACT SO FAR

When The New Pa­per con­tacted al­fresco din­ing and out­door ad­ven­ture venues in Sin­ga­pore, most said there has been lit­tle im­pact from the haze.

An out­door ad­ven­ture or­gan­i­sa­tion cater­ing to chil­dren and the youth said it will be re­quired to sus­pend busi­ness if the PSI reaches 170.

Its man­ager, who de­clined to be named, said: “As of now, it is slightly hazier than nor­mal, but it will not af­fect us too much un­less the sit­u­a­tion wors­ens.”

Mr Sharul Nizam, man­ager of Ma­sons, a restau­rant at Gill­man Bar­racks, which has in­door and out­door seat­ing, said it has not been af­fected, but his staff are mon­i­tor­ing the PSI lev­els and will ad­vise cus­tomers to sit in­doors if con­di­tions worsen.

NEA said it is mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion closely and will pro­vide fur­ther up­dates when nec­es­sary.

PHO­TOS: JOYCE FANG, NEA WEB­SITE

(Top) Hazy con­di­tions as seen from Mount Faber at 5.50pm yes­ter­day. (Above) A satel­lite im­age of haze hot spots and af­fected ar­eas.

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