Singapore's dangerous pollution problem

A dense haze has blanketed the city-state with officials blaming neighbouring Indonesia's slash-and-burn agriculture.


Singapore - Singapore's air pollution has reached record hazardous levels, with the city-state blaming neighbouring Indonesia for allowing illegal slash-and-burn agriculture to go unabated. 

The Standard Pollution Index climbed to 290 recently and on Wednesday it shot up to 371 - creating dangerous conditions, especially for those with respiratory ailments. A PSI reading above 300 indicates "hazardous" air, while a reading between 201 and 300 means "very unhealthy".

Singapore says the smoke came from forest fires on Indonesia's Sumatra island and enshrouded its 5.3 million people in a dense smog. The last time when the PSI surpassed the 200 level was back in 1997.

Indonesia, meanwhile, responded angrily to the accusations, saying Singapore was "behaving like a child". 

Singapore says the fires were caused by Indonesian logging companies illegally setting fire to their waste. Singapore’s Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam emphasised the urgency of the situation and offered to help fight fires in Indonesia.

“Cooperation could be further strengthened to tackle the haze problem and ... [Indonesian] officials could discuss with their Singapore counterparts ways to better cooperate and deal with the haze issue,” Singapore's government said in a statement.

The illegal forest burning on Indonesia's Sumatra, to the west of Singapore and Malaysia, to clear land for palm oil plantations is an annual problem, particularly during the June to September dry season.