I was told the French get red sand from the Sahara and Britain had volcanic ash from Iceland. Of course I knew about the volcanic ash since we were worried about not being able to fly into Heathrow in 2010 after the eruption which caused airlines to cancel many flights. But “blood rain” was entirely new to me. Well, these are clear examples of the forces of Mother Nature. Unlike what Singapore is going through right now, red sand coating cars, houses etc and volcanic ash are beyond our control. For those who are unaware, but our tiny red dot island is covered in a blanket of hazardous haze. The haze is a result of Sumatra farmers burning forests to clear land for cultivation.
We haven’t got a skyline like New York City, but as a proud Singaporean, I think ours is impressive. Whenever I return to home with my husband, we marvel at how beautiful the city-state is. But lately, my beautiful country has been choking on fumes from our neighbour!
Source: Photo taken online here
Many tell me that I’m really lucky not to be inhaling the haze (which has a burning smell) and I think so too, but it makes me so angry and worried that my family and friends have to go through this. Not everyone (like the expatriate kids my parents ferry) can buy an air ticket to Denmark to escape the haze. They’ve just got to live with it. Here’s a picture of what the Singapore Flyer (ferris wheel in the picture above) looks like without the haze.
As much as words may have been taken out of context, it is even more infuriating that a minister from Indonesia (Agung Laksono) has called Singapore “childish”and that we “said nothing when there was fresh air but complained about the occasional haze”. See report here. This piece of news worked better than my alarm clock in the morning. It made me jump out of bed. Here’s what I want to say ,” Sir, our USUAL air quality isn’t like what you’re used to. Ours is USUALLY hell a lot better. What’s there to complain when we have fresh air? Are we supposed to thank Indonesia for our fresh air?”.
In times like this, I understand that it isn’t time to point fingers. There’s a whole debate on whether Malaysian and Singapore firms had anything to do with the illegal burning of forests in Sumatra. That’s for the government to find out and companies to look into their corporate social responsibility.
I understand from friends that it’s really hard to breathe and everyone’s desperately trying to get hold of the N95 masks. My mum who’s usually out all day due to work demands have resorted to wearing masks and sunglasses. The worst haze I’ve experienced was in 1997. Back then I remember that it was already difficult to breathe, and my eyes got really itchy and sensitive easily. Now that the average PSI has gone above 300 (hazardous levels), I can only imagine it to be a lot worse!
Source: Picture taken from here
In contrast, here’s a shot of Marina Bay Sands when we had fresh air (ohhhh!!!! Everyone let’s say a BIG thank you to Agung Laksono for the fresh air!!! Woohoo!!!)
Right now, we can only pray for rain to help put out the fires in Sumatra. It looks like the haze is here to stay and there’s nothing much people in Singapore can do. Do we all stop work and stay home? Is it simply a choice between GDP growth and health? Unfortunately, it’s not as simple. I’m no politician but I can imagine that a declaration of state of emergency is something VERY serious. But I can’t imagine the consequences. Singapore loves being number one eg. best airport in the world, world’s biggest aquarium etc…we love setting new records. But I’m very sure we don’t want to be breaking another record (which we’ve already done) when it comes to the haze.
To everyone in Singapore reading this, please take care. I know it’s a difficult and frustrating time and I probably can never understand how terrible the air is. Do stand united because the “fight” isn’t within Singapore. We’ll fight the haze (cloud seeding or whatever technology they have), fight to have fresh air which we don’t have to thank Agung Laksono for, and return to the days of clear blue skies… the days when we complain about the mundane things in life which don’t “burn” our health. Hugs to my family and friends in Singapore! You know I would send you guys air from the German Alps if I could! (For those of you who are skeptics, I’m NOT showing off.)