Haze returns here as fires in Indonesia rage

Feng Zengkun, Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja My Paper AsiaOne 16 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE - That burnt smell, the foggy blanket in the air - your senses have not deceived you: The haze is back in Singapore.

Singapore's National Environment Agency Pollution Standards Index (PSI) readings crossed into the unhealthy range in the early hours of yesterday morning.

The three-hour PSI was 102 at 1am and continued to rise through the night.

By 6am, the PSI hit 113, but fell slightly to 111 at 7am.

The reading tailed off after that and was 66 at 7pm, in the moderate range.

People with chronic lung and heart disease are advised to avoid prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion.

Just last month, Singapore passed a law to punish polluters who cause the haze.

Firms will be fined for each day that they contribute to "unhealthy" haze. Unhealthy haze is defined in the new law as air quality having a PSI value of 101 or greater for 24 hours or more.

Polluting companies may be fined up to $100,000 a day, up to a maximum of $2 million.

The Indonesian authorities are also making plans for cloud-seeding operations to extinguish forest and plantation fires in South Sumatra and Riau that have raged for days and shrouded Singapore in the haze.

Erwin Mulyono - a scientist with Indonesia's Applied Technology Agency, which helps to strategise cloud-seeding operations - told The Straits Times: "We are communicating with BNPB (the National Disaster Mitigation Agency) now and will start arrangements to do cloud seeding. BNPB will make the call."

He added: "We have personnel ready in Pekanbaru and in Palembang right now. The aircraft (for the cloud-seeding operation) were in the Halim Air Force base (in Jakarta) yesterday and should soon be deployed there."

Haze over southern and central Sumatra in the past few days was mostly due to forest and plantation fires in South Sumatra.

The wind has been blowing in a north-easterly direction over Riau, as is typical for this time of the year, sending the haze in the direction of Singapore and the Malaysian peninsula.

Hourly air-quality readings in Malaysia yesterday morning have been either healthy or moderate so far.

Unfazed by the haze: Singapore F1 organisers say there's a contingency plan
Channel NewsAsia 16 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE: A day after the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) hit the "unhealthy" range, the organisers of the 2014 Formula 1 (F1) Singapore Airlines Grand Prix said the possibility of haze has been factored into its contingency plan.

In response to a Channel NewsAsia query on Tuesday (Sep 16), a Singapore GP spokesperson said: "The possibility of haze is just one of the many potential issues that are covered in the overall 2014 F1 Singapore Airlines Grand Prix Contingency Plan. The plan was formulated and refined with stakeholders, government bodies and the F1 community.

"In the event that the haze causes visibility, public health or operational issues, Singapore GP will work closely with the relevant agencies before making any collective decisions regarding the event."

The three-hour PSI reading crossed the "unhealthy" threshold briefly when it hit 113 at 6am on Monday. As of 1pm on Tuesday, the 24-hour PSI reading ranged between 64 and 72 while the three-hour PSI stood at 69. Readings between 51 and 100 indicate "moderate" air quality.

Singapore to see slight haze over next 2 weeks
Tan Shi Wei Today Online 17 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE — Slightly hazy conditions could hit Singapore sporadically over the next two weeks due to prevailing wind conditions and periods of consecutive dry days that are usually seen during the current South-west Monsoon season.

Winds are expected to continue to blow from the south-southeast or the south-west — where Sumatra lies — the regular fortnightly weather outlook the National Environment Agency (NEA) posted on its website yesterday showed.

In its daily haze advisory, the NEA said seven hot spots were detected in Sumatra yesterday, down from the 80 spotted on Monday when the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) crept into the low end of the unhealthy range.

Nevertheless, widespread smoke haze was observed over the southern and central areas of Sumatra, it noted.

Readings for the 24-hour PSI fluctuated yesterday, but remained in the moderate range.

The western part of the island continued to log higher PSI levels than the rest of Singapore, peaking at 94 at around 1am.

The NEA cited a change in wind direction to be the reason for the lower PSI readings yesterday, compared with Monday.

The overall air quality for today is expected to be in the moderate range, with prevailing winds blowing from the south-east and expected showers in the afternoon. “Given the air quality forecast for the next 24 hours, everyone can continue with normal activities,” said the NEA. TAN SHI WEI