Singapore Smog Hits Record Levels

Will attempt cloud seeding to combat fires

Jun 21, 2013
Outside Magazine

Air pollution in Singapore reached record “hazardous” levels Thursday as smoke from fires in neighboring Indonesia billowed over the island city-state. Singapore’s National Environment Agency raised the city’s Pollutant Standards Index, a measure of air quality developed by the U.S. EPA, to an all time high of 371, far surpassing the official “hazardous” designation of 301.

Officials in Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia have all issued warnings advising residents to limit their time outdoors and to drink more water. As of Friday, all fast-food deliveries have been suspended and the military has halted all outdoor field training. Drug stores have also reportedly run out of facemasks.

The crisis has forced rising tensions between Singapore and its neighbor, with Malaysia urging Indonesia to step up efforts to control the fires. “This is now the worst haze that Singapore has ever faced,” wrote Singaporean Environment Minister Vivian Balakrishnan. “And no country or corporation has the right to pollute the air at the expense of Singaporeans’ health and wellbeing.”

In response, Indonesia dispatched helicopters Friday equipped with cloud seeding equipment in hopes of bringing rain to the afflicted areas. Cloud seeding, a controversial and largely unproven method, involves spraying clouds with a combination of chemicals, most commonly silver iodide, in hopes of increasing the chance of precipitation.

"Hopefully, we will be able to create artificial rain today," said Indonesia’s National Disaster Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho. He also said water-bombing helicopters may be dispatched to aid firefighters on the ground, but gave no timeframe.

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