Singapore Haze From Indonesian Fires Reaches Record Levels

Image: Singapore Haze From Indonesian Fires Reaches Record Levels

Thursday, 20 Jun 2013 11:33 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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Smog from Indonesian forest fires continued to swallow Singapore this week, spiking the city-state's pollution index to record levels Thursday, as politicians squabble about who is at fault.

BBC News Asia reported Singapore's pollution index topped out at a record-breaking 371 before settling in at 300 later in the day. A PSI reading above 200 indicates "very unhealthy" air, while a PSI score above 300 is "hazardous," according to the National Environment Agency.

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Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a news conference that he believes smog could engulf the area "for several weeks and quite possibly longer until the dry season ends in Sumatra."

Singapore officials have called the forest fires on Indonesia's Sumatra Island "illegal" and demanded "definitive action" from officials in Jakarta to curtail the smog.

Loong provided satellite data to Indonesia to help identify who was responsible for the fires.

"No country or corporation has the right to pollute the air at the expense of Singaporeans' health and well-being," Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore's environmental and water resources minister, wrote on her Facebook page.

Agung Laksono, Indonesia's minister for people's welfare, shot back, claiming the dry climate has a lot to do with the problem.

"This is not what the Indonesian nation wants," Laksono said, according to the BBC. "It is because of nature."

Some Indonesian administrators complained that foreign palm oil investors, including Singaporean companies, may bear some responsibility for the fires.

However, several major Singapore-based palm oil companies have denied involvement.
Singapore's prime minister said the city-state provided satellite data to Indonesia to help identify who was responsible for the fires, the BBC reported.

Singaporean and Indonesian environment officials met Thursday in an emergency meeting in Jakarta. Parts of Malaysia have also recorded "hazardous" pollution levels, where officials ordered more than 200 schools to be shut down. Malaysian administrators also banned open burning in some states.

Singaporeans complained about government inaction about the smog problem online, and disposable medical masks have flown off the shelves at Singaporean convenience stores.

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