What’s an annual event in Singapore that all of us hate?
Hint: It’s smelly, stings your nose and makes your eyes water.
No, it’s not when people beside you on a crowded MRT give a deadly, silent fart. That’s not an annual event; it’s a daily event.
So, what is it?
It’s the HAZE.
Nearly every year, Indonesian’s forest fires send Singaporeans scurrying to Guardian and Watsons to stock up on N95 masks.
The funnier (and more kiasu) of us were even spotted donning gas masks. And when all the masks were taken?
In 2018, it was reported that the Indonesian forest fire crisis has been controlled, much to the relief of Singaporeans.
And Now, For the Bad News:
This past week, the haze has come back.
“Oh, so that’s what the smell was!”
“I thought my eyes were just blur…heh.”
Firstly, no, it’s not just you.
And this time, Indonesia isn’t the culprit.
On Monday, Singaporeans in the eastern area of the island reported experiencing haze and a burning smell between 9:00 p.m. on Sunday (Feb 24) and 11:00 a.m. on Monday.
The National Environmental Agency (NEA) said that this was caused by a fire in southern Johor, 30km to the east of Singapore, which has since been put out.
Online, netizens were complaining of the haze in both Eastern and Western parts of Singapore. Some said the haze caused their throat to hurt while others said it made it hard for them to sleep.
On Monday, the Pollution Standard Index (PSI) in Singapore was around 52-55, which is in the moderate range.
For a rough idea of how PSI works, here are the guidelines as stated on the NEA’s website:
A PSI of:
- 0-50 = good
- 51-100 = moderate
- 101-200 = unhealthy
- 201-300 = unhealthy
- Above 300 = hazardous
During Singapore’s worst-ever haze crisis in 2015, the PSI soared beyond the 400 marks, causing serious health issues for many and sparking outrage against Indonesia.
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As of the writing of this article, Singapore’s average PSI is 52.
The fire in southern Johor has since been put out but…
Our hazy troubles aren’t over yet.
On Tuesday, 26 February, a second hotspot was detected in Johor, about 50km to the east and north-east of Singapore.
The NEA cautions Singapore to expect more haze and burning smell if the fires continue.
Johor’s Department of Environment has since informed Singapore authorities that there was a fire at Punggai, at an oil plantation. Johor’s fire department has managed to put out the fire with the help of Tuesday’s rain.
However, 20 per cent of the surrounding areas remains smoky.
Expect More Hotspots in Johor
As February is a dry season for the area, fires breaking out amongst dry land and vegetation can be expected.
The NEA is closely monitoring the situation and Singapore’s air quality and will provide updates should there be any significant changes.
What Can We Do
Haze is a common, annual event in Singapore that we are well acquainted with.
Haze can trigger many respiratory problems such as asthma attacks and lung infections. It is particularly harmful to the elderly and young children.
Here are a few precautions you might want to take while this week’s haze persists:
- Stay indoors with closed doors as much as possible, especially if you are prone to respiratory problems
- Use an air purifier to trap small particles
- Wear an N95 mask when heading outside
- Drink more water to flush out any toxins
- Build up your immunity with health-boosting foods.
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