SINGAPORE

In pictures: Hazardous smog engulfs Singapore

 Authorities have announced that the hazardous smog that has engulfed Singapore could last for weeks. To show just how bad the situation has become, concerned citizens are sharing photos of the hazy city – mostly taken from behind windows, where they can breathe more easily.

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Singapore, choked by record levels of smog. Photo by our Observer Lee Yew Moon.

 

 

Authorities have announced that the hazardous smog engulfing Singapore could last for weeks. To show just how bad the situation has become, concerned citizens are sharing photos of the city – mostly taken from behind windows, where they can breathe more easily.

 

On Friday, smog levels hit an unprecedented 400 on Singapore's Pollutant Standard Index. The previous all-time high, recorded in 1997, was 226. The current situation was caused by smoke from forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia, where plantation owners on Sumatra island are burning their land to clear it cheaply.

 

Prime Minister Lee Hsien said Thursday that the smog could “easily last several weeks and quite possibly longer until the dry season ends in Sumatra.”

 

View of smog-filled Singapore from being the safety of a window. Video published on YouTube by Bebe Lee.

“We are lacking in independent watchdogs and punitive sanctions to punish the errant corporations”

Reuben Wong is a political science professor at the National University of Singapore.

 

The smog, or ‘haze’ as we call it here, has created a sense of crisis and alarm in Singapore. Singaporeans are dealing with this execrable haze in several ways: we stay indoors in air-conditioned rooms and offices as much as possible; we’ve cut down on strenuous outdoor activities; and many of us wear surgical masks or N95 respirators when going outdoors.

 

Despite these measures, I have the feeling of an impending sore throat and constantly teary eyes. I have two sons who are attending pre-school, but we are not taking any chances and will keep them home if the smog level continues to stay in a hazardous range.

 

I believe the failure of south-east Asian countries to solve this perennial air quality issue is reflective of the lack of supranational governance needed to resolve transboundary problems like environmental degradation. I think the Singapore government is doing all it can for now, within the norm of international law, but this is a problem that requires international cooperation – not just between governments, but also corporations, NGOs, international organisations and independent watchdogs. We are lacking in independent watchdogs and punitive sanctions to punish the errant corporations, like the palm oil companies headquartered in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore who still use slash-and-burn techniques to clear large tracts of forest for palm oil cultivation.

 

 

A drive through Thursday's smog. Video published on YouTube by Razali.

 

Our Observer Gauthier Colard, who lives in Singapore, sent in this photograph. He asks, "Can you spot the sun?" It's barely visible in the centre of the photo...

 

Photo of Singapore's smog sent in by our Observer Serge.