The Haze. It sounds like something from a horror story about a vile, airborne… uh… haze that relentlessly consumes all in its path in a big… uh… puff of…. um… stuff….?
But it’s nothing other-worldly. It is a yearly occurrence in Singapore. Forest clearing on the Indonesian island of Sumatra results in thick clouds of smoke smothering Singapore and Malaysia. It is such a regular event that it has its own name but this year is being hailed as the worst since 1997 with extremely thick smoke blanketing the entire island for several days in a row now. The Haze might even hang around for weeks.
At the very least, it makes walking down the street an unpleasant experience. At worst, it makes it a complete and utter health hazard. As I type this, the pollutant index in Singapore is apparently at 190 which is astronomically high. Anything over 100 is considered unhealthy. The view from our apartment is gone. All I can see are the lights from windows that are within a few hundred metres of us but the buildings have disappeared into the grey of The Haze. It’s like being trapped in one of those smoking rooms in an airport. I’ve had a dry throat and nose for days now.
There’s always a little back and forth between Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia about it. Singaporean officials complain about Indonesians and their insane need to clear huge sections of rainforest with a match and a can of petrol. Right now, Indonesians are claiming that businesses owned by Singaporeans are responsible. All jokes aside, the mere thought of so much rainforest being burned down is awful.
At the moment, going outside for a cigarette is an awful, tear-inducing experience. Someone commented to me today that it shouldn’t really matter to me, seeing as I’m smoking anyway. That’s like saying that if you go to the toilet and the person before you hasn’t flushed, it won’t bother you because you’re just going to do your business anyway. That is not how it works, dear reader. That is not even close to how it works.
I didn’t notice it last year but it is unbearable this year. Singapore isn’t the prettiest place to be right now. If you’re planning on coming this way soon, pack an oxygen tank, a mask and wear your medic-alert bracelet. You’ll need them.
Update: PSI (pollutants index) has hit 290 at 9.30pm here in Singapore. It is literally unhealthy to stand outside.