The haze worsened on Wednesday, with the Pollution Standards Index (PSI) peaking at 64 – the highest level reached this year.
Although still in the moderate range, Wednesday’s air quality deteriorated from the previous day’s, when the PSI – a measure of air quality – was 55. Visibility improved in the evening, thanks to a heavy downpour.
Satellite pictures on Wednesday showed 66 hot spots in Sumatra, spread across the provinces of Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra. A further four hot spots were counted in Kalimantan, although the weatherman said visibility there was impaired by cloud cover.
The National Environment Agency said that although slightly hazy conditions are expected over the next two days, showers are also anticipated and they could help alleviate the situation. It also said that there was no need for people to take special precautions when air quality was in the moderate range.
A prolonged dry spell over Kalimantan and Sumatra has resulted in more burning being carried out to clear forest, with the fires producing the acrid pall that has blown across the region.
The situation may persist until the end of the year and is exacerbated by the development of an El Nino weather pattern bringing hotter and drier weather over the equatorial Pacific Ocean.
As Singapore braces itself for smog-filled days ahead, organisers of major events being staged here are on alert in case the situation worsens. First up is the Formula One SingTel Singapore Grand Prix over the weekend of Sept 25 to 27, followed by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum in November.
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Yaacob Ibrahim said in Parliament on Tuesday that the haze situation would come under greater international scrutiny with these events being hosted here.
A spokesman for the Singapore GP said it would consult the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile – the world governing body of motorsport – and government agencies before making any collective decision regarding the event.
‘If the haze causes visibility, public health or operational issues, the primary concern will always be the safety and wellbeing of participants both on and off the track,’ she added, without elaborating.