Air

Southeast Asia enveloped in haze

The primary cause of the haze has been hundreds of forest fires in Indonesia

 
By Shagun Kapil
Last Updated: Thursday 19 September 2019
Central Singapore recorded an Air Quality Index of 159. Photo: Getty Images

Air quality across Southeast Asia has hit hazardous levels in the last few days as many parts have been blanketed under haze, owing to smoke from forest fires in Indonesia.

On September 17, 2019, the air pollution reached alarming levels and hazy conditions continued to be observed over many parts of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and other countries in the region.

The smoke in Indonesia has reportedly been bellowing from the clearing and burning of farms for its palm oil plantations and pulpwood industries and causing troubles for its neighbours. The fires have been a recurring phenomenon in the country for the last few years. This time, they began in June but have intensified over the last month, leading to several flights being cancelled and schools being shut.

Vietnam’s capital Hanoi too was engulfed in high levels of smog on September 17 due to nearby coal plants and vehicular traffic.

The air quality index (AQI) in Indonesia’s Jabungtimur area in Jambi province, one of the most affected, was 414 on September 18.  A reading over 100 is considered unhealthy. In Jakarta, it was at 149, according to AQICN, which gives real-time AQI for more than 60 countries.

According to Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC), a regional collaboration programme among the National Meteorological Services of ASEAN member countries, the smoke haze continued to build up in the provinces of Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra as a result of moderate to dense smoke haze from the persistent hotspots there.

“In particular, there has been an intensification of hotspots in Jambi that led to increased haziness there,” ASMC said.

“Some of the smoke haze from the hotspots in Sumatra has been blown to the western parts of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. In Kalimantan, widespread moderate to dense smoke haze from persistent hotspots in South, West and Central Kalimantan was observed. Some of the smoke haze from West Kalimantan has been blown by the prevailing winds to affect western Sarawak. The prevailing winds have also blown smoke haze from hotspots in Kalimantan over adjacent sea areas,” it added.

According to the visual map on the website, the haze in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia has breached unhealthy levels.

While central Singapore recorded AQI at 159, several cities in Malaysia were two times above the safe limit. The highest levels were recorded at Balik Pulau at 254.

Indonesia has reportedly called in water bombing helicopters to Riau to bring huge forest fires under control and has deployed thousands of military personnel to help people fighting the fire in different areas.

Meanwhile, Indonesia and Malaysia have been pointing fingers at each other for causing the haze. 

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