Environment Minister Vivian Balakrishnan slams 'false, malicious' cloud seeding rumours

Environment Minister Vivian Balakrishnan slams 'false, malicious' cloud seeding rumours

SINGAPORE - A message circulating via Whatsapp and SMS claiming that the National Environment Agency (NEA) is conducting cloud seeding operations to combat the haze has been debunked by the Environment Minister himself.

Calling the allegations false, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said in a Facebook post: "NEA does not engage in cloud seeding and has no plans to do so. Singapore is so small that even if anybody tried to do it, the rain would almost certainly fall outside Singapore.

"Singaporeans should beware of malicious people spreading false rumours during a period when anxieties are heightened," the Minister for Environment and Water Resources added.

The false message that has been circulating claimed that the information was provided by "a friend working in NEA" and advised readers to "keep away from the chemically induced rain showers".

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin also weighed in on the rumours on his Facebook page: "Why do people do this just so to discredit the Government, especially when you have a real health and safety situation (haze) that is unfolding?

"Creating undue fear to undermine public confidence in times like this is totally irresponsible."

The government website Factually, which aims to dispel rumours, also addressed the issue.

"There are no reliable means to validate the effectiveness of cloud seeding in Singapore," Factually emphasised.

"Cloud seeding also requires existing clouds as it cannot generate rain out of thin and dry air. During dry seasons, cloud seeding is less effective due to the lack of suitable clouds for seeding.

"The small size of Singapore and the variability of winds also mean that the induced rain, if any, may not fall directly over our island."

Singaporeans had a respite from the haze on Thursday as the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) dropped to the moderate range between 74 and 94 as of 2pm this afternoon. The haze is considered unhealthy when it reaches 101-200.

The 3-hour PSI, which is only an indicative measure with no linked-health advisory, stands at 82 at 10pm.

NEA said in its health advisory for Sept 17 that the 24-hour PSI for the next 12 hours is expected to be in the high end of the moderate range, but may enter the low end of unhealthy range if unfavourable winds blow in haze from Sumatra.

Meanwhile, the government has reinstated the Haze Subsidy Scheme, which provides children, the elderly and lower and middle-income Singaporeans with treatment for haze-related conditions such as asthma and bronchitis.

Up to 30,000 face masks will also be distributed by the People's Association to vulnerable households comprising seniors and residents.

Organisers of the Singapore Grand Prix have also said that the race will happen as planned this weekend, despite concerns over the reduced visibility.

grongloh@sph.com.sg

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