For the last week or so, Singapore has been enveloped in a haze. The PSI readings have at times reached 370, where anything above 100 is considered ‘unhealthy’, anything above 200 is ‘very unhealthy’ and above 300 is ‘hazardous’.
This is due to fires set to palm plantations and forests in Indonesia, to clear land for more palm plantations. The plantations are privately owned by Singaporean, Malaysian and Indonesian companies, who are slashing and burning, resulting in unprecedented smog in Singapore. There are also the Indonesian farmers, who need to keep setting fire to their land to retain claim on it. None of them looks interested enough in finding a solution, because the problem goes back decades. Singapore says Indonesia is responsible, Indonesia says Singapore is behaving like a kid.
The health advisory says:
“Based on the 24-hour PSI readings, the Ministry of Health (MOH) advises that Singaporeans limit prolonged or heavy outdoor activities. In particular, children, the elderly, and those with heart or lung diseases, should avoid outdoor activities and seek medical treatment early if they feel unwell.”
Meanwhile, my help walked in, red-eyed and sore-throated, without a mask. She couldn’t find one in any of the shops, because the stocks have run out. She’s now wearing a mask indoors, as am I, as I write, and her son will have a mask when she goes back home. But I had only two extra masks, and from my window I can see cleaners and guards doing their jobs without any. The PSI outside is 367. My mind feels similarly smogged out, my throat itches, and my brains hurt. This despite the air purifier, which we bought at a mind-boggling price. They have run out of those in the shops, too.
So, if you like reading or writing dystopian fiction, you can come visit Singapore, because out here in the Singaporean Haze, we’re breathing it. Literally.