Singapore — Air pollution in Singapore reached its most hazardous level this year on Tuesday as haze caused by fires in Indonesia shrouded the island state.
The hazy conditionsan annual irritant for residents of Indonesias northern neighborshave tested relations between Singapore and Indonesia and prompted lawmakers in both countries to take measures to combat the problem.
Singapores National Environment Agency said that at 10 a.m. local time on Tuesday, the pollutant standards index, or PSI, was between 107 and 125 in different areas of the country, with figures averaged over 24 hours. The readings eased off later in the day to between 98 and 118 at 3 p.m. The NEA classifies any level between 101 and 200 as unhealthy and advises residents to reduce prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exercise.
The prevailing winds are forecast to blow from the south or southwest, and hazy conditions can still be expected for Singapore, the NEA said in a statement on Monday.
The NEA said Indonesia has been asked for an urgent update for immediate action to suppress the fires. It declined to elaborate on that request. Indonesias Disaster Management Agency didnt respond to requests to comment.
The air is not that good so you dont want to go out, said Sammi Wu, 30 years old, who was carrying her 11-month old infant. Ms. Wu said she keeps an air purifier at home to keep the haze away.
Many Singaporeans say they are skeptical that Indonesia will be able to rein in the illegal fires.
Joan Alikazin, 25, an office worker in downtown Singapore, said she doesnt expect much to come of Indonesias efforts to battle the pollution. Every year they say they are going to do something about it but it doesnt seem to have improved.
Yet Ms. Alikazin said she was encouraged by promises made by the Singapore government that it would assist Indonesian authorities. Im pretty sure its not empty words, she said.
In August, Singaporean legislators passed a law to allow regulators to prosecute local and foreign companies involved in illegal forest burning with fines of up to two million Singapore dollars (US$1.6 million). The country has also said it would work with Indonesia to educate farmers about sustainable development.
Jakarta has also promised action. In September, Indonesias parliament voted to ratify a regional agreement on air pollution that would help coordinate action between nations to prevent the clearing of land using fire.
Indonesias Disaster Management Agency said last week that more than 3,000 armed forces and police personnel on the ground were helping douse the illegal fires, while aircraft have been tasked with water-bombing and seeding clouds in the hope of inducing rain in the worst-affected areas.
The Indonesian agency says it expects the highest number of hot spots this year to occur this month, with most of the fires that cause the haze lighted illegally to clear land and make way for expansions of pulp and palm-oil crops.
Singapores NEA said on Monday it had detected 97 hot spots in the western Indonesian islandof Sumatra and 74 in the central island of Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo island.
Last year, smoke from Indonesian forest fires shrouded Singapore and Malaysia in a thick haze that sent air pollution measures to hazardous levels the highest on record.