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Singapore in 'no-haze' push

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Air quality may improve on Sunday

While there are fewer hot spots in Indonesia this year, Singapore is still pushing for a "no-haze" situation, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said on Saturday (Aug 27).

"We can see that even with so few hot spots, the right amount of wind... can give us very bad air," Mr Masagos said on the sidelines of a community event.

Figures from the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre show there have been 401 hot spots in Sumatra so far this year, compared with 7,188 during the whole of last year, The Straits Times reported.

Still, Mr Masagos emphasised that Asean is trying to work together to be haze-free by 2020.

"What we need is not reduced hot spots, what we need is no hot spots," he said, adding that the National Environment Agency (NEA) is waiting for its Indonesian counterpart to respond to a letter it sent yesterday to express its concerns over the haze.

"There is a mechanism for aid to be given, and there is a mechanism within Asean how it can be activated," he said, in response to a question on whether Singapore has offered assistance to Indonesia.

"We are always standing ready. We've already offered the package, it is up to the Indonesians to activate it. When the level requires it, we will be there to help," he added.


Mr Masagos also said that Singapore has taken steps locally to address the haze problem.

"I have followed up work by my predecessor to ensure that the issue of haze is not something we forget and then only bring up periodically," he said. "We have been tackling this on many fronts, internationally, regionally and also to raise awareness among our own companies and citizens.

"On the one hand, we don't want the haze to come, on the other hand, we should not be buying, supporting companies that produce the products in an unsustainable way."

Caused mainly by palm oil planters and pulp and paper companies using fire to clear peat swamp land in South Sumatra and Kalimantan, the haze has become a public health issue in Singapore, pushing the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) to dangerously high levels at times.

But air quality is forecast to improve in the next 24 hours, NEA said Saturday evening.

The PSI was in the high moderate to unhealthy range on Saturday, dipping slightly through the day.

A "further improvement in the air quality can be expected on Sunday," NEA said.

Winds are expected to change to blow from the south-west or south overnight, with the PSI forecast to be in the moderate range. Thundery showers are also forecast in the late morning and early afternoon on Sunday.