Haze returns to Singapore

NEA says it could last through the weekend
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 30 Sep 11;

THE haze is back and could prevail during the weekend, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said yesterday.

The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI), which measures air quality here, spiked to 69 in the evening yesterday.

Air is unhealthy when the index passes 100.

The haze this year first appeared here earlier this month, although it cleared periodically due to shifting wind directions.

The NEA had forecast that the haze could return this week.

Yesterday, it said the reappearance was largely due to a growing number of fires in Sumatra, from about 50 on Sunday to more than 300 on Wednesday, the highest in two weeks.

It added that smoke from a fire in oil giant Shell's refinery in Pulau Bukom may affect the air quality in neighbourhoods in western Singapore such as Jurong, Teban Gardens, West Coast and Pasir Panjang, depending on wind conditions and efforts to douse the flames.

Yesterday's 24-hour average reading for the day showed that all parts of Singapore registered PSI figures in the 50s.

Doctors said patients with respiratory problems such as asthma should carry inhalers and avoid outdoor exercise.

Housewife Jane Liang, 43, who is asthmatic, said even the 'moderate' haze yesterday morning had caused her condition to worsen. 'My throat started feeling very uncomfortable. I had to close all the windows and sit next to a fan until I felt better,' added the Jurong East resident.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said on Tuesday that Singapore has offered to expand an existing project with Indonesia to combat the forest fires.

The collaboration is in Jambi, about 330km south of Singapore and one of the provinces in Sumatra worst hit by forest fires this year.

The project includes training officials and staff from non-governmental organisations to study satellite photos to identify plantations and companies responsible for the fires.

Indonesia has yet to respond to Singapore's offer.

The NEA said it would provide the haze forecast for Singapore for the next two weeks today.