Posts tagged ‘haze’
SINGAPORE: At least two community hospitals in Singapore are gearing up for the hot and hazy weather ahead, and top on their minds is their patients’ health and comfort.
Kwong Wai Shiu hospital installed a customised ventilation system late last year. Since the hot weather season started, the system has lowered temperatures in this ward.
Another community hospital, Bright Vision, has started using half of the 60 portable air-conditioners it bought last year.
Hardware aside, hospital directors say if severe haze conditions hit, they may have to tweak patients’ treatment too. Many of their patients require occupational and physiotherapy, which can be demanding for the elderly.
“If the air quality drops, we will have to scale back the intensity of the treatment,” said Professor Lee Kheng Hock, Medical Director of Bright Vision Hospital. “Unfortunately, this would mean that we have to prolong their stay in hospital so they can have more time to recuperate and reach the level of function that we aim for. This, in turn, would lead to a delay in discharge which would be very unfortunate because we are trying our best to bring them back safely to their home as soon as possible.”
KUALA LUMPUR — A spike in forest fires in Riau province sparked a warning yesterday from Indonesia’s disaster agency that haze could spread to Singapore and Malaysia.
The agency tallied a rise in hot spots from 97 to 366 in the province over a one-day period, AFP reported.
“The likelihood of the smog reaching Singapore and Malaysia is getting higher,” Mr Sutopo Nugroho, a spokesman at the agency, was quoted by AFP as saying.
Earlier yesterday, Malaysia urged Indonesia to put out and prevent further land and forest fires in Central Sumatra that have been responsible for cross-border haze, the Malaysian media reported.
Malaysia’s Natural Resources and Environment Minister G Palanivel said the Department of Environment’s director-general, Madam Halimah Hassan, had written to her counterpart in Indonesia.
“The letter was to express Malaysia’s concern about the increase in the number of hot spots causing the haze in the peninsula since June 22,” he was quoted as saying in a statement on Tuesday. He said the Singapore-based ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC) had reported that the number of hot spots in Sumatra rose from 129 on Monday to 143 on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, 25 hot spots in Malaysia have been identified, with nearly half of them in Pahang. Other states such as Johor, Sarawak, Kedah, Kelantan, Malacca, Selangor, Perak and Penang also reported hot spots.
“The hot spots will be investigated and appropriate action will be taken by the relevant authorities,” Mr Palanivel said.
As of 9am yesterday, unhealthy Air Pollution Index readings were recorded in towns and areas such as Putrajaya, Banting, Port Klang, Shah Alam, Cheras, Nilai, Petaling Jaya and Batu Muda.
Mr Palanivel said the air pollution was influenced by cross-border haze blown by the south-west monsoon and is likely to remain until September. He added that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite images issued by the ASMC on Tuesday had shown moderate haze drifting from areas in Riau in Central Sumatra towards the central region and south-western coast of Peninsular Malaysia.
To prepare for the haze this year, Indonesia has set aside US$30 million (S$37.5 million) and put 2,500 military personnel on standby, with 15 planes and helicopters helping with aerial firefighting, monitoring and cloud-seeding efforts, Mr Nugroho had previously told Reuters. AGENCIES
Aircraft for fire-fighting and cloud seeding among some of the resources offered to the country’s neighbours in the run up to the upcoming traditional dry season.
SINGAPORE: In anticipation of the upcoming dry season, Singapore will offer assistance to Indonesia and Malaysia to help its neighbours suppress fires, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) said on Tuesday (June 10).
MEWR stated the assistance package offered to Indonesia is the same as offered in previous years, namely:
- One C-130 aircraft for cloud seeding operations;
- Up to two C-130 aircraft to ferry fire-fighting assistance teams from Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF);
- A team from SCDF to provide assessment and planning assistance to their Indonesian counterparts in fire-fighting efforts; and
- High-resolution satellite pictures and hotspot coordinates
The ministry said haze from land and forest fires during the traditional dry season from June to October has been a “perennial problem” in the southern Southeast Asia region in the past decade. This is mainly due to illegal land clearing and “slash and burn” agricultural practices in Indonesia, particularly Sumatra and Kalimantan, it said.
Singapore experienced its worst episode of haze last year when the three-hour PSI hit a record high of 401 on June 21, 2013.
“In the run up to the upcoming dry season, the Singapore Government has offered the Indonesian Government assistance to help combat possible land and forest fires. We hope this will help to prevent another episode of severe haze in the region,” MEWR said.
It added that Singapore was also affected by transboundary smoke haze from Malaysia earlier in March, when the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) entered the “Moderate” range and reached a high of 75 on March 12. Assistance was offered to the Malaysian Government to help combat land and forest fires should such a need arise, the ministry said.
The haze that is expected to hit Singapore in the coming months could go on for as long as three months, experts have warned.
SINGAPORE: The haze that is expected to hit Singapore in the coming months could go on for as long as three months, experts have warned.
This is similar to what the Republic experienced in 1997, they said.
Prolonged hazy skies could happen if a strong El Nino effect sets in, compounded by the already-started illegal land clearing by farmers in Sumatra.
El Nino is a phenomenon which causes severely dry weather and high temperatures in this region.
According to environmental reports, there were more than 3,000 hotspots in Sumatra at the peak of the haze crisis in March alone.
This compared to about 2,700 in June last year.
The next dry season will occur between June and October, and experts are concerned illegal land clearing in Sumatra will result in large-scale fires.
“If they deliberately set fires to clear land, particularly if it’s land being cleared illegally, they are not going to listen to anyone who tells them not to start the fire,” said Mr Faizal Parish, Director of Global Environment Centre, a non-governmental organisation based in Malaysia.
“They won’t take immediate action to put out the fire. The problem (in Sumatra) is the need for active enforcement on the ground.”
Worse, the March fires have not yet been put out completely.
Mr Parish said: “(About) 90 per cent of smoke and haze is coming from peat. Fires can remain burning underground for months and then come back up to the surface during dry periods.
“So, sometimes when there’s rain, the surface fire goes out but is still smouldering on the ground. A few days later, or a week later, the fire can re-emerge again from underground to the surface.”
Mr Parish said the fires deep within the peat smouldered for as long as six months between 1997 and 1998.
That was also the year strong El Nino conditions set in.
How warm a particular stretch of the Pacific Ocean is could provide an indication of an El Nino pattern.
Experts say the sea surface temperatures have to consistently be 0.5 degrees Celsius above a long-term average for an El Nino season to be declared and this part of the Pacific Ocean has been exceeding these thresholds since April.
In Singapore, experts say 1997 was also characterised by the lowest annual rainfall measured in the Republic since 1948.
Assistant Professor Winston Chow from the National University of Singapore’s Geography Department said: “In June, July and August, we should be experiencing South West Monsoon or summer monsoon conditions where wind direction comes from the south or south west.
“You still have rainfall occurring. But what happens during El Nino is that while the wind conditions more or less remain the same, you can expect less rainfall to happen. On top of that, you would expect higher-than-normal temperatures during the season as well.”
Professor Chow said if there are intense fires in Sumatra, the prevailing wind direction would fan the smoke and particulate matter towards Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia.
Transboundary haze may return in the coming months, but Singapore will be better prepared this time, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.
SINGAPORE: Transboundary haze may return in the coming months, but Singapore will be better prepared this time.
Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said this on the sidelines of a community event on Sunday.
Dr Balakrishnan said the fact that Singapore was hit by the haze earlier this year is a warning sign that there could be another one coming.
It could be exacerbated by the El Nino effect — a weather phenomenon which causes severely dry weather and high temperatures.
Dr Balakrishnan said: “People know what the situation is, we have got all the systems in place to keep people informed and up-to-date, literally on an hourly basis.
“There will not be a mad rush for masks, literally, because this time round, every household has masks.
“Furthermore, our work schedules and our preparations for work, if need be, for telecommuting; all these plans are in place.”
He also lauded the move by Singapore Power, SingPost and Temasek Cares to distribute free N95 masks to households, and he hopes to see more of such initiatives from the private sector.
Dr Balakrishnan said: “This is the sort of mass participation that we want to encourage. On the environment front, it is not possible to make sure nothing ever happens.
“Whether it is haze or dengue, there will be these challenges. But the more our people are prepared, the more we work together, the more we are cohesive, the better it will be to confront whatever hits us.”
File photo of Indonesian firefighters battling forest fires in Riau province on Sumatra island. (AFP/ULET IFANSASTI/GREENPEACE)
An Indonesian province at the heart of a Southeast Asian smog crisis last year has declared a state of emergency after being blanketed in thick haze from forest fires, officials said on Thursday.
JAKARTA: An Indonesian province at the heart of a Southeast Asian smog crisis last year has declared a state of emergency after being blanketed in thick haze from forest fires, officials said on Thursday.
Thousands have fallen ill, transport has been disrupted and schools closed after days of fires in Riau province on Sumatra island, where blazes are deliberately lit every year to clear land for palm oil and wood pulp plantations.
More than two dozen people suspected of starting fires in rainforest and peatland have so far been arrested, said national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.
Haze from fires on Sumatra is an annual problem in Southeast Asia, but last June Singapore and Malaysia were cloaked in the worst smog for more than a decade.
While some haze was detected in the two neighbouring countries in recent days, the air quality was mostly good.
Declaring an emergency allows Riau to seek help in tackling the blazes from the central government, and Nugroho said aircraft were preparing to drop water on fires and carry out “cloud-seeding” to chemically induce rain.
“The disaster agency is preparing aeroplanes and helicopters to carry out water-bombing of the fires,” he said.
More than 25,000 people have fallen ill in recent days due to high air pollution, with most suffering respiratory tract infections, said Riau disaster chief Said Saqlul Amri.
The emergency status means health centres must see patients free of charge, he said.
Local media reported that some flights to Riau had been cancelled this week while others were diverted, and schools were closed in some parts of the province.
Last year’s fires strained ties between Indonesia and its neighbours, prompting an apology from Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to Malaysia and Singapore at the height of the crisis.
Indonesia is the world’s biggest producer of palm oil — which is found in everyday grocery items, such as shampoo and shaving gel — and Riau is the country’s main palm oil hub.