THE haze outlook for Singapore is not good as the period between August and October is when the haze is usually at its worst levels. Yesterday, the country became increasingly shrouded towards the evening, with a strong burnt smell in the air.
The situation here could get worse because of a dry spell in Sumatra, said Chia Aik Song, an associate scientist of the Centre for Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing (Crisp) at the National University of Singapore.
While he noted the difficulty in predicting how the haze will develop, he warned: "As long as there is not enough rain to put out the fires, the threat of unfavourable winds bringing smoke from Sumatra across the Strait of Malacca to Singapore will persist."
The 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) hovered between the low- and mid-end of the unhealthy range (101 to 200) throughout yesterday and is expected to worsen.
At 9pm yesterday, it stood between 133 and 166. The three-hour PSI, which is not tied to health advisories, was 249.
The 24-hour PSI is expected to be in the mid to high sections of the unhealthy range but may deteriorate into the low section of the very unhealthy range (201 to 300) today, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) yesterday evening.
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan spoke with Indonesian Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya Bakar yesterday afternoon, to further express his concern over the haze.
According to the NEA, he also reiterated Singapore's offer of help, which Indonesia has so far declined.
Minister Siti Nurbaya said the Indonesian authorities had already deployed resources, such as helicopters, military and police personnel, but that she would consult Indonesian President Joko Widodo again on Singapore's offer.
She also agreed to share the names of companies which are suspected to be causing the fires when they are confirmed.
On the home front, Singapore is gearing itself up for the worst. Pharmacies have stockpiled N95 masks to prevent shortages and the Ministry of Education (MOE) has activated haze-management measures, including minimising outdoor activities when the 24-hour PSI is in the unhealthy range.
"The ministry will consider closing all primary and secondary schools when the health advisory for the next day indicates that the air quality will be at the hazardous level," said the MOE on its website.
The National Trades Union Congress yesterday urged employers to be more vigilant on the haze situation and "ensure that the welfare of their workers is not compromised for any reason".
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