Quantcast
Latest Stories

Worsening haze from Indonesia angers Singapore, tourists


his photo taken on Monday, June 17, 2013 shows the Marina Bay Sands hotel and the Supertrees at Gardens By The Bay covered in haze. The Pollutant Standards Index, Singapore’s main measure to determine air quality, crept into the “unhealthy” classification Monday as smoke from roaring blazes on Indonesia’s Sumatra island drifted across the sea and cast a gray pall over the city-state’s skyscrapers. AP/Wong Maye-E

SINGAPORE — Singapore’s smog crisis from Indonesian forest fires worsened Wednesday as air pollution levels reached a 16-year high, triggering a run on medical masks and angry complaints from foreign tourists and locals.

The city-state’s Pollutant Standards Index soared to 172 at mid-afternoon, well past the officially designated “unhealthy” threshold of 100, according to the National Environment Agency (NEA) website.

It was Singapore’s most severe haze reading since September 1997 when the number peaked at 226. Anything above 200 is considered “very unhealthy” particularly to the elderly, young children and people with heart and lung disease.

“We are going to leave Singapore two days early because we are having trouble breathing,” said Zac Kot, 40, a business owner from the United States who was on holiday with his wife and two young girls.

Indignant Singaporeans attacked their own government on the web for its handling of the problem. Disposable medical masks flew off drugstores’ shelves as consumers and companies bought them in bulk and placed orders for more.

Even tourists from Indonesia — traditionally the largest source of visitors to Singapore — protested about the smoky haze from Sumatra island, where some farmers and plantations deliberately set off fires to clear land for cultivation.

“It’s not very good, and it’s getting harder to breathe. I just don’t know where to go,” said Rangga Adisapoetra, 30, a risk management executive from Indonesia’s main island Java who was attending a mobile communications and broadcasting expo.

“Maybe tomorrow, I’ll visit Universal Studios. Since we are in Singapore, we might as well visit attractions,” he told AFP, temporarily lifting a grey face mask to speak as he waited outside a convention centre for his friends.

The pollution problem peaks during the June-September dry season, when monsoon winds transport thick clouds of smoke from Sumatra to neighboring Singapore and Malaysia.

Singapore is a densely populated city-state of 5.3 million inhabitants which welcomed 14.4 million visitor arrivals in 2012 — 14.5 percent of them from Indonesia.

Air quality also worsened on Wednesday in Malaysia, where readings in seven areas monitored by the Department of Environment entered “unhealthy” levels by midday, mainly in the country’s south near Singapore.

Just four areas were rated “unhealthy” the day before.

Southeast Asia’s worst haze crisis took place in 1997-1998, causing widespread health problems and costing the regional economy billions of dollars as a result of business and air transport disruptions.

Singapore officials continued to take to social media on Wednesday to address citizens’ rising anger over the smog.

Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam strongly rebutted online criticism that the Singapore government was being soft on Indonesia — a sprawling archipelago of more than 240 million people.

“Every country is sovereign and we can’t intervene in the actions in other countries,” he said in a Facebook posting on Wednesday.

“The burning is taking place in Indonesia. What do you think Singapore can do about that?” he wrote.

Shanmugam and Singapore’s environment minister Vivian Balakrishnan on Tuesday spoke with their Indonesian counterparts to emphasize “the urgency of the situation” and offer help to fight the fires in Sumatra, a government statement said.

On Monday, an Indonesian forestry ministry official, Hadi Daryanto, shifted some of the blame to Malaysia and Singapore, saying their palm oil companies that had invested in Indonesia were also responsible.

Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), a palm oil plantation company listed on the Singapore Exchange with operations in Sumatra, said it has a “zero burning policy” since 1997 that its local contractors must comply with.

GAR’s website says it is the world’s second largest palm oil plantation company with a total planted area of 464,300 hectares (1.15 million acres) including smallholders and a market capitalisation of $6.0 billion as of March.

“Only mechanical means such as excavators and bulldozers are used in our land preparation,” a spokesman told AFP.

“If illegal fires are started near our estates we take prompt action to put them out and report to the local authorities.”


Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: environment , forest fire , Haze , Indonesia , Singapore




Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
  1. US teacher fired over comment on black president
  2. Filipinos, Dane re-enact crucifixion of Christ
  3. Magnitude-7.5 earthquake shakes Mexican capital
  4. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  5. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  6. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  7. Massive infra spending set
  8. Easter crucifixions draw huge crowds
  9. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  10. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  3. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  4. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  5. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  6. MH370 co-pilot made mid-flight phone call – report
  7. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  8. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  9. Massive infra spending set
  10. OFW brings MERS virus to Philippines
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Model Helena Belmonte wished ‘to slash her wrist and hope to die’
  5. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  6. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  7. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  8. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’
  9. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  10. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia
Advertisement

News

  • Gloomy weather on Black Saturday–Pagasa
  • Mixed feelings for Gabriel Garcia Marquez in hometown
  • Korea ferry captain arrested, divers spot bodies
  • Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’–report
  • Pakistan library named ‘bin Laden,’ as memory fades
  • Sports

  • Duke’s Rodney Hood joining Jabari Parker in NBA draft
  • Phelps entered in 3 events at comeback meet
  • Boston prepares for huge wave of marathon visitors
  • Motivated LeBron James preps for postseason
  • Nadal ousted by Ferrer in Monte Carlo quarters
  • Lifestyle

  • Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  • Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • Entertainment

  • Myx TV premieres Asian American ‘docu-series’
  • A nutty finale for ‘Scandal,’ TV’s craziest show
  • EXO postpones release of mini album ‘Overdose’
  • ‘X-men’ filmmaker slams ‘fabricated’ sex attack claims
  • Singer Chris Brown’s bodyguard on trial in DC
  • Business

  • US commerce secretary spells out economic facet of ‘pivot to Asia’
  • Italy sells luxury state cars on eBay
  • Asian shares mostly up in quiet trade
  • Dollar up in Asia on US jobs data, Ukraine deal
  • Barbie doll has a problem
  • Technology

  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • OFW from UAE tests negative for MERS-Cov–health chief
  • Multicultural flock marks Good Friday in San Francisco
  • Las Vegas ‘Pinoy Pride’ fest hails Filipino heritage
  • Marking Jesus’ journey on Good Friday
  • Filipina accomplice arrested for fake bills in Malaysia
  • Marketplace
    Advertisement