Haze from Indonesia Forest Fires

Indonesia:HazeFrom Indonesian Forest Fires Shrouds Singapore

25 September 2002

SINGAPORE,25 September 2002 (AP) Thick smoke from annual forest fires inneighboring Indonesia has sent air quality levels falling in Singapore, leavingthe island shrouded in a gray haze, the government’s environmental agency saidon its Web site Wednesday.

Thecountry’s Pollution Standards Index hit 65 on Friday morning, up some 15 to 20points from early September, the Singapore Environmental Agency said on its Website.

Thehaze has cast a visible pall over the city. But it doesn’t yet pose a healththreat for its 4 million people because the pollution isn’t expected to riseabove the danger level of 100, as it did during a peak in Asian haze in 1997,the agency said.

Eachyear, out of control fires  set by farmers, plantation ownersand loggers to clear land  rage on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra,sending smoke billowing across Singapore, Malaysia and southern Thailand.

Thisyear, the haze has led to a higher number of reported respiratory ailments inIndonesia and forced authorities to close schools and cancel flights due to poorvisibility.

InSingapore, blue skies have been a rare sight the past week, with the sun barelyvisible through the unbroken gray haze. Neighboringcountries have criticized Indonesia for allowing the fires to burn out ofcontrol. But cash strapped local authorities say they must rely on poorlytrained and under equipped volunteers.

TheIndonesian government banned open burning in 1999. But enforcement of the law islax, and corrupt officials often turn a blind eye to the fires.



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