Forest fires originating from Indonesia's Sumatra Island has laid a blanket of smog over Singapore, sending most citizens scampering to buy protective masks and inhalers.
Singapore's air quality has teetered on "unhealthy" classification for some time now, but with the recent smog, air pollution has swollen to its highest levels in over a decade. A reading of 155 on the Pollutant Standards Index was taken Monday, while readings general fall between 104 and 123. (101 in considered “unhealthy,” if you were wondering.)
The smog is a reoccurring problem, beginning around midyear when Indonesian farmers clear brush by lighting fires. It’s begun to strain diplomatic relations. The Singaporean government is fed up with Indonesia’s inability to enact political sanctions on farmers caught illegally maintaining their fields.
The dry summer months have added to the problem, sparking spontaneous fires on a semi-regular basis. Firefighters are working over-time, in extreme conditions – and making little progress.
So far, neighboring countries like Malaysia have only been slightly affected. Pollution levels have yet to exceed the “unhealthy” limit. (But it’s only a matter of time…)
Sumarto Suharno, spokesperson for Indonesia’s Forest Ministry, claims the government is striving to educate farmers about agricultural alternatives to traditional ‘slash-and-burn’ techniques. “We have been able to reduce the regional haze problem significantly for years with help from local communities and will continue to undertake all efforts to prevent it from spreading," he said.
But will it be enough?
How many children will be diagnosed with chronic asthma before we get serious about the poisons we’re pumping into the atmosphere?
Pollution isn’t a regional issue. It can’t be tackled by any one government. Winds disperse carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases evenly throughout the atmosphere. It’s going to take cooperation. It’s going to take years of study, expert debate, and a willingness to work towards a unified goal: an end to global warming!