Indonesian fires a worry

Indonesian fires a worry

17 November 2006

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Singapore — Scientists in Singapore are seeking ways to make rain amidwarnings that the smokey haze from burning Indonesian fires may be far worsenext year, news reports said on Friday.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) is planning a feasibility study on cloudseeding with chemicals sprayed onto clouds to induce rain.

Experts told The Straits Times there are obstacles including ensuring that theseeded clouds actually end up raining over an area as small as the city-state.

Another difficulty is in “attempting to quantify the extra rainfallgenerated by the seeding,” Associate Professor David Higgit with theNational University of Singapore was quoted as saying.

“If there are no clouds, then there is not anything one can do by thismethod,” added Professor Neville Fletcher of the Australian NationalUniversity.

The recent haze in the city-state from the land-clearing fires was the worst innine years, prompting health officials to urge Singaporeans to stay indoors andturn on their air conditioners.

Many suffered breathing difficulties, running eyes and coughs.

Experts have warned the El Nino effect may greatly intensify the haze next year,resulting in a very unhealthy level of pollutants in the air.

An NEA spokesman said its new study will take into account the advances made inthe field of cloud seeding, including improved radar technology andhigh-performance aircraft.

Malaysia and Indonesia have seeded clouds to reduce haze in the past. TheMalaysian state of Sarawak bore the brunt of the recent haze from Indonesia’sadjoining province of Kalimantan.

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