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  Yahoo News 7 Oct 06
Singapore issues health advisory over thick haze
by Ian Timberlake

Channel NewsAsia 7 Oct 06

Haze worsens in Singapore, PSI hits new high for the year
By Rita Zahara

SINGAPORE : Singapore's haze situation worsened on Saturday, moving into the "unhealthy" range for the first time this year.

The 3-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) at 10am was 130. At 9pm, it moved up to a new high for the year at 150 but later eased to 136 at 12 midnight on Saturday. The highest 3-hour average PSI reading recorded was in September 1997 when it hit 226.

Singaporeans woke up to haze-filled skies on Saturday with PSI levels at the highest so far this year.

On the government level, Singapore has expressed its concerns about the situation to Indonesia, stressing the urgency to suppress the forest fires which are causing the haze.

Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said: "I just hope that next year, the Indonesians will understand our concerns and do something about the haze, or do something about the fire before it is started by farmers and plantation owners. Our Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be registering our concerns with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Indonesia, that's the least we should do."

Singapore has offered assistance to Indonesia to fight the problem. This includes cloud 'seeding' operations to induce rain as well as table-top exercises to help farmers deal with land clearing.

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Environment and Water Resources Minister, said: "At the end of the day, it is up to the Indonesian government, the Indonesian people at this point in time, the offer that we have made still stand. I think if there is anything else that they need, if they make a request, we will consider it. Meanwhile on our part we will continue to provide them coordinates and locations of the hotspots and from there they can locate the forest fires and hopefully they can suppress the fires as quickly as possible."

Minister Yaacob said an an Indonesian official passed through Singapore recently to see for herself how the haze has affected Singapore.

Meantime, the National Environment Agency has started providing three hour PSI updates on its website. The 3-hour PSI is derived from taking the average PSI of the past three hours. For instance, at 3pm, the PSI reading was 83 - this figure was derived from the average reading between 12 and 2pm.

Hazy weather is expected in the coming days and Singaporeans have been advised to take the necessary precautions. - CNA/ch

Yahoo News 7 Oct 06
Singapore issues health advisory over thick haze
by Ian Timberlake

SINGAPORE (AFP) - Singapore's environment agency has issued a health advisory as a thick haze from illegal fires in Indonesia choked the city-state and surrounding region.

Singapore's pollution index at 0800 GMT Saturday was 128, compared with 80 on Friday. A reading above 101 is considered unhealthy.

"Persons with existing heart or respiratory ailments should reduce physical exertion and outdoor activity. The general population should reduce vigorous outdoor activity," the National Environment Agency advised.

The fog-like haze, which has affected Singapore for several days, carried with it a burning smell.

In neighbouring Malaysia, pollution also worsened as readings from the department of environment showed air quality at unhealthy levels in 20 areas of the country, up from 12 on Friday.

"The smoke haze situation has deteriorated overnight. The prevailing winds have remained southerly to southwesterly overnight and they have brought smoke haze from southern Sumatra to Singapore," a statement from the city-state's environment agency said.

An agency spokeswoman told AFP Singapore recorded its highest daily pollution reading in 1994 when the index reached 142.

Singapore's environment agency said satellite pictures showed 506 hotspots -- large areas with high temperatures indicating fires -- and thick smoke haze in Indonesia's Sumatra island, mainly in Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra provinces.

"The prevailing winds are transporting the smoke haze towards the Malacca Straits, peninsular Malaysia and Singapore," the agency said.

At 0600 GMT Saturday, Indonesia's ministry of forestry reported 2,000 hotspots in Kalimantan, mostly in Central Kalimantan province on Borneo island. On Sumatra island only 291 hotspots were burning, the ministry said.

Poor visibility of 50 to 100 metres (yards) in Palangkaraya, capital of Central Kalimantan province, stopped all flights in the morning, said Hidayat, an official from the local meteorological office.

A spokesman for Singapore's Changi Airport on Saturday said the haze had not affected operations at the regional aviation hub.

On Friday flights were disrupted in Malaysia's Sarawak province on Borneo island. In Indonesian Borneo, hundreds of firefighters, aided by police and volunteers, have been trying to douse the illegal forest fires.

Residents in the southern Thailand provinces of Narathiwat and Yala, which border Malaysia, reported clear skies and fine visibility on Saturday.

Malaysia's meteorological department said it expected conditions to improve over the weekend in Sarawak as well as Sabah state and the country's north.

But light showers expected in the Kuala Lumpur area and the country's south would offer little respite there. "It won't help very much," a department spokesman told AFP.

Indonesia's annual burn-off causes a haze that typically smothers parts of Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand as well as Indonesia itself.

The Indonesian government has outlawed land-clearing by fire but weak enforcement means the ban is largely ignored.

"The fires are seasonal and very predictable, but the government never implements effective measures to prevent and manage them," said Nordin, of the Palangkaraya-based environmental group Save Our Borneo.

He alleged the Central Kalimantan fires were burning in oil palm plantations owned by a Malaysian company.

Singapore's The Straits Times called Saturday for Indonesian authorities to show they are taking action against illegal forest clearing. "Southeast Asia needs more than just assurances that results are forthcoming," an editorial said. "The root cause remains indifference and illegal acts of destruction, and this is squarely the responsibility of Indonesia's central and provincial authorities to police."

Latest Haze Watch Report 11 Jul 06 on the ASEAN Haze On Line website
Related articles on Singapore: Haze
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