SINGAPORE – Forest fires and smoke plumes on Indonesia’s island of Sumatra sparked Singapore government warnings on Monday the city-state could soon be shrouded in haze. But there would be no repeat of the health-threatening smog that choked parts of Southeast Asia in late 1997 and early 1998, the Ministry of the Environment and Meteorological Service Singapore said.
“There has been an increase in the number of forest fires and hot spots in central Sumatra over the weekend,” the ministry’s Deputy Director of Services Wong Teo Suan told a news conference.
“If they continue to spread, then there is the likelihood we will see some hazy days… So far Singapore’s air quality has not been affected,” Wong said.
Singapore’s Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) stood at 42 at 0800 GMT.
A rating of zero to 50 is in the “good” range, 51 to 100 is “moderate” with few or no health concerns and above 100 is considered “unhealthy”.
Wong said more than 90 hotspots had been detected in central Sumatra by satellite images over the last few days, compared to less than 10 previously.
He said dry southwesterly winds, marking the onset of the monsoon season, increased the region’s susceptibility to fires and were blowing smoke plumes towards the Malacca Straits.
He said information collected in Singapore had been relayed to Indonesia’s environmental watchdog, Bapedal, which gave no explanation for the fires.
Indonesian fires last flared in March, and pollution reached “hazardous” levels in Indonesia’s Riau province, prompting calls for a state of emergency to be declared and causing “moderate” haze in neighbouring Singapore.