It’s been a week since I landed on the little red dot. I spent the first two days trying to hunt down my luggage because an elusive Mr. Chen took home my blue suitcase mistaking it for his. After I got my bag full of shorts and T-shirts back, I got excited to enjoy the Singaporean sunshine.
But, the sun has been struggling to shine its light on me and the other 5ish million Singaporeans because the city is enveloped in a thick cloud of haze. Winds are blowing the uncontrolled fires from the “slash and burn” cultivation of Sumatra onto Singapore. Take a look at these amazing NASA images that capture the fumes blowing from Indonesia to Singapore.
Singaporeans are no strangers to the haze from their neighbours drifting over their city, but it has never been this bad. The highest Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) record was set in 1997 with a value of 226. To contextualize the situation, a PSI of 300 is considered hazardous; 400 is considered lethal for the elderly and ill. Today, the PSI soared up to 402.
McDonalds cancelled its delivery service yesterday, and many offices allowed their employees to work from home. Air purifiers were sold out at Little India’s famous Mustafa Centre. [And this place has everything in bulk. Everything. Except cars] Pharmacies are running low on facemasks and some people are walking around with their noses stuffed in thin T-shirts.
The heavy haze also made it extremely difficult to get out of bed this morning. I managed, somehow. Then I showered, put on clean clothes, ate cereal and took off for work. The walk from my place to the MRT to work is 10 minutes cumulative. I got to the office smelling like a cigarette butt, and puffing like I had just ran a half-marathon. Alas! All those years of being a healthy non-smoker gone to waste.
But, Singapore has still managed to look charming in this weather. Check out some iPhone photos (because with all this smog, I couldn’t be bothered to pull out the big guns a.k.a. my DSLR).
A senior Indonesian minister has said, “Singapore should stop behaving like a child, in such a tizzy.” Singapore has garnered quite a lot of international attention for issue, but the country is only trying to look out for the health and well being of its citizen (and ex-pats!) because they are choking on the awful smoke coming from the neighbouring island. Yes, nature does play a big part in all this, but without sounding like too much of an environmentalist, maybe we should be looking into more sustainable methods of agriculture and cultivation so that problems like this don’t come up in the first place.
Now, it’s rumoured that Indonesia plans to use weather changing technology to make it rain and extinguish the raging fires.
Whether it rains naturally or because someone is injecting chemicals into clouds, I would just like this haze to clear out and be able to breathe properly. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I get to see the famous Singapore skyline soon.