Skip to main content

Haze in #Singapore , #sgHaze in My Mind

Haze in Singapore PSI

Singapore Haze

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.

Singapore Haze : View from my Balcony

Singapore Haze : View from my Balcony

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.

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  • carmenaidacreates says:

    Damyanti, OMG… That’s just awful! I so hope you & your family are doing okay. I’ve been meaning to send you a heartfelt thanks for your continued support but this week has been crazed! You just don’t know what clean air & water means until you don’t have it? As always, you’re in my thoughts and prayers & I’ll do better with letting you know that – I promise. Carmen Aida

  • I have just nominated you for The “Shine On” Award. You can read the details about this award here:

  • simon7banks says:

    It’s not just the damage to human health, but the destruction of natural environments with their wildlife and, in all likelihood, the impoverishment of the soil.

  • RonniN says:

    Why does this continue to be allowed, after decades? Sounds like major corruption going on…even farmers being sucked into it…I’m sure this is not what they envisioned for their loved-ones, livestock, or land. What happens over there when people start dropping dead? I feel for you and yours…I live in the desert, and until monsoon hits, we suffer with airborne dust, pollen, wildfire smoke, but nothing of this magnitude! Be safe. Let it rain!

    • Damyanti says:

      There is, of course, a lot of corruption. We’re doing better today, with the wind changing direction and carrying most of the smoke out of our way.

  • Greetings Damyanti,
    The awful situation that you are enduring in Singapore and across Indonesia and Malaysia, was the main news on the BBC earlier today, Friday. The BBC showed a classroom with very young children with surgical masks on and there was no way they were allowed outside. It went into great detail about the fires and the severe consequences the public are suffering with due to to those irresponsible companies who put profit before giving consideration to our fragile planet. In the BBC news item, somebody who looked rather like your good self was being interviewed.

    Hope this record breaking PSI you are experiencing, thanks to those irresponsible and inhumane plantation fires started by those companies, ends very soon.

    Dear lady, I wish you well. Much respect and a hopefully good weekend, Damyanti.

    In kindness,


    • Damyanti says:

      Thanks, Gary. Like I said to Sheena, we’re having a better day today. Our friends in Malaysia, though, are suffering with one area looking at a PSI of 746. Can’t imagine what that must be like.

  • Reminds me of the challenges in The Hunger Games. I wish you guys a lot of rain and soon. So sorry for your predicament.

    • Damyanti says:

      Thanks Sheena. Your prayers, as well as everyone else’s seems to have helped a little– the wind has changed direction, and the PSI is down to 100. Actually saw the sun for a while yesterday and today.

  • That is just insane. You guys need a good, heavy rainstorm to even begin clearing out some of the haze.

  • I think it isthe responsibility of the Govt of Singapore to take the issue up with Indonesia etc and fix it to protect he health of citizens

  • I had no idea. That’s awful. I hope you post updates.

  • writerlysam says:

    That does sound like excellent fodder for a rather dismal dystopian tale – I am always amazed at the extent man will go to make living conditions worse for everyone in pursuit of monetary goals. Could we mail you extra masks/ bags of fresh air?

  • Great post and what a great subject for a novel or short story. Hoping you and your family and friends stay well. Will be praying for the health of the people in Singapore. Thank you for sharing.

  • Saba-Thambi says:

    Hope it gets better in a day or two. I feel sorry for the asthmatics and the elderly. Hope the government fine those companies and allow only controlled burning!

  • My god that sounds horrific. Talk about being irresponsible. Those Farmers need to read up on Global warming apart from anything else. I do hope you come through all this relatively unscathed and with a clean chest

  • Sounds horrible! Be well.

  • Dan Antion says:

    Sorry for you . thanks for making us aware and I hope things change for the better soon. In the meantime try to stay inside and protected.

  • Oh wow, you’re actually *there*! Yeesh, hope you stay inside or wear a hazard suit… 😉

  • This is terrible, Damyanti! I cannot believe how short-sighted the Government is … those companies should be fined and made to burn on a strict rotational basis formally applied for and limited to one at a time. I do hope it clears soon for you all.

    • Damyanti says:

      Humanity is short sighted, Angela. That’s the way we’re wired, and will continue– till we’ve burned down the very last tree, killed the very last animal. Then we’ll wake up to the fact that we can’t eat money. By then, it’ll be too late. But who cares, we just keep on burning.

  • pieterk515 says:

    Wow, been there three times already, but obviously my timing is great. I used to complain about the humidity, but I guess there are worst things to complain about…

  • Sally says:

    Great post, Damyanti. It’s pretty bad pollution over there and so sad that it’s because of burning to plant more palm plantations – sounds like a short term gain for long term pain! I hope that the countries can come to some kind of agreement to resolve this issue so you can get your air quality back.

    • Damyanti says:

      Sally, these countries have been pushing the buck for decades, while the rich get richer and the poor suffer. That is the way of this world. I’m praying for rain. More hope there.

  • june choksiri says:

    I believe the Indonesian government is dragging its feet on this matter. There is no reason why after 20 years of annual complaints from neighboring countries, the haze problem persists and now has actually worsened. Your average Indonesian government official is a self serving, ill disciplined, irresponsible moron. Agung Laksono is a perfect example. This idiot should be shot (literally). I think the days where Singapore practices diplomacy is over. Being diplomatic for 20 years did not produce the desired results or secure the needed cooperation in resolving this haze issue. Indonesians do not react unless it hurts them. Maybe Singapore and Malaysia should tally the amount lost from tourism receipts and the costs incurred in trying to manage the adverse health effects on its citizens and bill it to the Indonesian government. Steps should then be taken to ensure payment of the bill in full. I have faith in the Singapore government’s efficiency in the collection of monies due. Another way would be to stop being so damned diplomatic with Indonesia. They obviously do not understand diplomacy so being diplomatic is an exercise in futility. Indonesia has clearly shown itself to be a bad neighbour. ASEAN as an entity is dead in the water when Indonesia cannot or will not do whatever necessary to stamp out a problem that has been occuring annually for 20 years. ASEAN is the laughing stock of the international community. Forget about dreams of forging a common market and all that. Indonesia has demonstrated time and again that it plays by its own rules …. and does not really give a damn about what its neighbours think and feel. Indonesia may be under an illusion that the neighbours are powerless and can only file diplomatic protests. What is happening now is threatening the health and well being of 5 million people in Singapore. I personally would consider this to be an unfriendly act….short of an act of war.
    Singapore has invested billions in its armed forces, making it the best in the region. Maybe it is time to show that when talking nicely fails, Singapore is prepared to protect its interests with force.

    • Damyanti says:

      June, I’m not sure this whole thing is going to get sorted out so soon. Too much greed and hubris at play. But we can always hope that this is the darkest hour, the one before dawn.

  • Arlee Bird says:

    This is not a good thing. The air in Los Angeles has cleaned up considerably over the last few decades, though I’m sure it’s still not all that healthy to breathe. Things get so dirty here with the particulates settling down on everything.

    A Faraway View

    • Damyanti says:

      This is far worse than a good thing. The PSI is 168 as I type and I still can’t bring myself to step out to the library.

  • Wendy says:

    wow, your post was published 10 minutes before mine, on haze topic. Feel kind of weird when I read it in the Reader feed, but I am glad that there is another soul out there who is concerned about the haze.

    • Damyanti says:

      Oh all of us who’re being ‘hazed’ in Singapore are concerned. I hope this year we’ll finally see some action on the issue.

  • kayuk says:

    That’s terrible! How can the owners of these companies be that callous and unconcerned with the health of entire cities?

    I hope you will be ok. I have masks here. Send me your address and I’ll mail you some. Joyfully they will get there in time to help.

  • Joseph Nebus says:

    When I lived in Singapore I got … acclimated is the wrong word, but kind of used to the haze coming up in certain seasons, though it was never so bad as you’ve got it now. It did mean some photographs I took my final weeks in the city were smogged out. For a couple of city shots that worked, since it put the sunlight in a context, and gave shadows a palpable presence in the air, but mostly, it’s one of the things I admit not missing.

    • Damyanti says:

      This is the worst ever. I’ve lived in Singapore and Malaysia for a while now, but never has the PSI hit 400, nor has my throat burned indoors, as it is doing now. No one will miss the haze once it goes away, the big question is how soon.

  • Tamilini says:

    My eyes are burning now I could not read it properly 🙁 very very difficult to breathe