Haze update: Not act of nature but man-made, says NEA chief

Haze update: Not act of nature but man-made, says NEA chief
An aerial view of haze shrouding Riau yesterday. Indonesia is investigating which companies are responsible for the fires.

SINGAPORE - Hence, Indonesia needs to take more decisive action against errant companies, Mr Tan told The Straits Times, echoing remarks he made at a two-hour meeting held here yesterday afternoon between Singapore officials and their Indonesian counterparts.

Read the opening remarks by NEA Chief Executive Mr Andrew Tan on June 20, 2013 in Jakarta at the emergency meeting with Indonesia on transboundary haze

Pak Yuri

Thank you for arranging this meeting with your agencies. It is most timely and relevant. As you can see from the presentation of my colleagues, the hotspot situation is deteriorating and could worsen if further measures are not undertaken to stop the burning as we enter into the traditional dry season.

The haze affecting Singapore has worsened dramatically in the last week. We are now in an unprecedented situation. Our 24-hour PSI reading entered the unhealthy range on 18 June and has remained in that range since. The 24-hour PSI at 12 noon today was 169 - 196 (unhealthy range) and the 3-hour PSI at 1pm was 371 which is in the hazardous range. The young, elderly, and sickly have been the most vulnerable, and those prone to asthma are seeing their conditions aggravated by the haze. Besides health and public safety concerns, the haze has already disrupted the normal lives of our public. If the current haze situation worsens, more Singaporeans will have to stay indoors and we may even have to issue general stop-work orders. Childcare centres and schools may also be closed. Singaporeans are naturally concerned and frustrated with the situation.

The number of hotspots has been increasing since 12 June. The latest satellite imageries yesterday evening detected 187 hotspots in Sumatra, mainly in Riau and Jambi. We understand that visibility in parts of Riau is poor and the airport in Dumai was closed yesterday. Our neighbours in Malaysia have also been affected by the smoke haze. We are deeply concerned about the deteriorating haze situation which looks likely to persist given the prevailing dry weather and southwesterly wind conditions.

The region has experienced several serious episodes of haze in 1994, 1997 and 2006. Despite the measures that we have undertaken, haze remains a recurring problem. Although there has been some progress made, there is much more that can and must be done at the national and regional levels.

In terms of bilateral collaboration, our cooperation in haze extends beyond the usual information exchanges. Our cooperation goes all the way back to 1997 when we set up air quality monitoring equipment in Jambi and Pontianak. More recently, Singapore and the Jambi provincial government have successfully collaborated on a project to jointly develop a Master Plan to deal with land and forest fires in Muaro Jambi Regency and implemented 9 action programme. The collaboration included the provision of air quality monitoring equipment and training of officials in GIS and satellite information interpretation, among other things. Between 2005 and 2012, Singapore had also provided assistance packages comprising high-resolution satellite pictures, aircraft for cloud seeding operations, and fire fighting assistance.

Singapore's haze on June 19
Click on thumbnail to view (Photos: AFP, Reuters, ST, TNP, Andrew Lim)
For more photos, click here.
Netizens share pictures of and jokes about the haze
Click on thumbnail to view (Photos: Twitter, ST, Stomp, Sin Chiew Daily, BH, AsiaOne)

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