In the past few weeks, Singapore has been struck by haze and to lift the mood of the gloomy days, a friend of mine even came out with a joke: “Do you know we just received free ice-cream? The brand is ‘HAZE-跟-DUST’ [HAZE-GEN-DUST, ‘跟’ means ‘and’]”… We burst out in laughter but it was not long before we had to stop. The laughing made us breathe in more of the polluted air and we started to feel the choking sensation. Nevertheless, this matter is not one that we can laugh it off and treat it as a joke. The country started to feel the effect of the haze with some people falling ill and others have their major outdoor activities cancelled. During the period, the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) went up to a 3-hr PSI of 249, at 2100hrs on 14th of September 2015 (Channel News Asia, 2015), which is within the very unhealthy air quality category. The PSI value and the air quality description are as seen below:
So how bad was it at the source? In Pekanbaru of Indonesia Sumatra island, it even went up to PSI of 984 (The Straits Times, 2015). Can you imagine that PSI at 900+???? How do you even live there! The haze actually contains many harmful substances to the body, examples like carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and particulates… In the case of PM2.5, it refers to particulate that are of size smaller than 2.5 microns. How small is it? It can enter the alveolar space of the lung and get stuck in there and also possible to cause inflammation in the lung tissue.
The fire were set, as a form of slash and burn practice, to clear land mainly for agricultural use. This method allow the rapid discharge of nitrogen that can be used as fertiliser for the crop and also at the same time burning and killing any pest or weeds that is present on the plot of land (Quah, 2002). However, this practice creates much more negative impacts, like haze, biodiversity loss, health problems, other economic loss (eg. in tourism) and expenditure to counter the wild fire, that affect not only the locals but also regional countries. Therefore, the local authorities should put in effort and do something about it to stop the irresponsible arson which causes extremely large area of lands to be burn down uncontrollably. On our part, we should condemn these actions, which are irresponsibly carried out by individuals or organisations, and on the other hand, support those that adopt the strategies of sustainable development and also care about the environment.
ReferencesChannel News Asia, 2015. Singapore reiterates offer of assistance to Indonesia to fight forest fires [Online]. Available from: http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/thousands-flee-pekanbaru-as-haze-hits-record-high.[Accessed 20 September 2015]
NEA, 2015. PSI [Online]. Available from: http://www.haze.gov.sg/haze-updates. [Accessed 20 September 2015]
Quah, 2002. Transboundary Pollution in Southeast Asia: The Indonesian Fires. World Development [online], March 2002, 30(3): 429-441. Available from: doi:10.1016/S0305-750X(01)00122-X. [Accessed 20 September 2015]
Reuters. 2015. Indonesia expects to control haze from forest fires within 30 days [Online]. Available from: http://in.reuters.com/article/2015/09/18/indonesia-haze-idINKCN0RI13W20150918. [Accessed 20 September 2015]
The Straits Times, 2015. Thousands flee Pekanbaru as haze hits record high [Online]. Available from: http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/thousands-flee-pekanbaru-as-haze-hits-record-high. [Accessed 20 September 2015]