Published on 18 Sep 2023

Singapore must prepare for risk of increased haze: Opinion

Pollution fumes from factories on the horizon

In an op-ed for The Straits Times, NTU EOS Asst Prof Janice Lee, Assoc Prof Steve Yim, and Prof Benjamin Horton discussed how the recent return of El Nino is again prompting discussions about how we should prepare for haze in Singapore, as a repeat of the 2015 South-east Asian transboundary haze is possible this year and probably in 2024.

Much of Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand suffered a protracted period of poor visibility and air quality then, after peat and vegetation fires raging in Indonesia were intensified by a bout of hot and dry weather brought about by El Nino.

This haze blanketed the region, resulting in widespread loss of lives, health problems and economic woes across South-east Asia. The dust, smoke and moisture from these fires caused difficulties in seeing and breathing. Over 100,000 deaths could have been prevented.

The episode was said to have cost Singapore $1.83 billion, given the adverse health impact, losses in business, tourism and productivity, and the costs of mitigation and adaptation, according to research by NTU.

“The best protection is for everyone to monitor the air quality at and reduce time spent outdoors for non-essential work if the haze reaches hazardous levels,” they wrote, adding, “Mitigation of fires over peatlands is undeniably the only long-term solution to stemming the health effects from the haze.”

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