It’s finally happened: terrible haze has struck the island of Singapore, and it’s so bad that the government says that it has reached an “unhealthy” level for the first time since 2015.
I’m not sure why we call it “haze” here; that grey stuff hanging in the air would more accurately be called “smoke,” the remnants of forest fires to our south. Indonesia and Malaysia are fighting over who’s responsible — Indonesia blames the Sarawak section of Borneo, while Malaysia blames Sumatra — but in any case, someone is setting a lot of forest fires to clear off land for more agriculture, and Singapore is feeling the pain. We’ve reached a PSI (Pollution Standards Index) over 100, which means we’ve hit a level everyone has been hoping to avoid.
You can first tell that there’s a problem just by looking out of the window. On a fairly ordinary day, the view from my balcony looks like this:
By the middle of the day yesterday, this was the view as I looked out to the right …
… and this is what I saw to my left:
It’s all pretty grim and grey. And if you dare to step outside, you’re hit with the dense smell of fiery wet wood. It’s a smell familiar to anyone who has traveled around other parts of Southeast Asia, and we do get it every once in a while here in Singapore, but now it’s much stronger and heavier.
We’re actually lucky that we live in the center of the island; the closer you get to Indonesia, the worse the air quality. So it’s even grayer downtown. Marina Bay Sands looked almost ok yesterday afternoon, almost as if it were shadowed in clouds …
… but the nearby skyline was a blur:
We had better skies than yesterday, thank goodness, but everyone is hoping that the fires will die down soon!