Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Asian haze makes its return

Kaye Patdu

Figure 1 Regional Haze Map
Source: NEA Meteorological Services Division
Over the past few days, Singapore and some areas in Malaysia have been enveloped in haze as a result of open burning in Sumatra, Indonesia (Figures 1 and 2). 

As seen in Figure 3, the prevailing southwesterly to westerly winds carried in some smoke haze from the fires in Sumatra (National Environment Agency [NEA], 2010). According to Malaysia’s Department of Environment (DOE), decline in air quality levels was first recorded around noon on Saturday, 16 October (Bernama, 2010).

Figure 2: Regional PM10 Conc. 20/10/2010
Source: Nea Meteorological Services Division
Yesterday, the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading at 4PM was at 80 (categorized as ‘moderate’ air quality). The Strait Times reports this as the highest 24-hour reading in Singapore since 2006–when Singapore was last experienced severe haze conditions (Gunasingham, A., 2010). According to NEA’s Haze Outlook yesterday, there is still possibility that some slight haziness may remain until the next couple of days. This morning, the 3-hour PSI reading from 7AM to 10AM was at 71.

In Malaysia, deterioration in air quality levels have been reported in certain areas, such as in north Johor, Malacca, Negri Sambilan and Sengalor in the past few days (Star Online, 2010). The Air Pollutant Index (API) for Muar in Johor reached 311 as of 5PM yesterday. This corresponds to ‘hazardous’ air quality. As part of the measures to reduce health impacts, schools in Muar were closed and thousands of masks were distributed to the residents (Jakarta Globe, 2010). Hazy conditions in several areas had also decreased visibility. In several areas in Malacca, Kuantan, Batu Pahat and Petaling Jaya, visibility declined to between 4 and 7 seven km (Bernama, 2010). As of 7AM today, 21 areas had ‘moderate’ air quality (API from 51 to 100) while the rest had ‘good’ air quality.

Figure 3: Wind direction in Indonesia, Singapore
and Malaysia. Source: The Strait Times.
The recent haze conditions just occurred a few days after the 6th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution on 13 October 2010 in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam. During the meeting, ASEAN Member States pledged to remain vigilant and continuously monitor and implement haze preventive activities with anticipation of possible periods of dry conditions despite of the expectation that inter-monsoon season will help to subdue hotspot activities (ASEAN Secretariat, 2010).

On 20 October, Channel News Asia (2010) reported that Singapore’s Environment and Water Resources Minister Yaacob Ibrahim said that the ASEAN environment ministers may need to meet again to discuss additional measures to address the haze issue if the situation gets worse.

For more information:
Malaysia: Member of the public may call DOE at toll free line 1800-88-2727 or access for API updates.
Singapore: Members of the public may call NEA Call Centre at 1800-CALL NEA (1800-2255 632) or access for any feedback or update on the situation.

Online Resources:
ASEAN Haze Action Online:
ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution:

Singapore Haze Action Plan:
Understanding Singapore PSI:
NEA Meteorological Services Division:

Malaysia Meteorological Department:
Is the PSI reading in Singapore the same as API in Malaysia?

ASEAN Secretariat, 2010. “Media Release: 6th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary.”13 October 2010. [Online]. Accessed: 21 October 2010. URL:

Bernama, 2010. “Open Burning in Sumatera Causes AQ in Peninsula to Deteriorate.” 19 October 2010. [Online]. Accessed: 21 October 2010. URL:

Channel News Asia, 2010. “Quick meeting among ASEAN ministers needed if haze worsens.”20 October 2010. [Online]. Accessed: 21 October 2010. URL:

NEA, 2010. “News Release: Haze Outlook as of 19 October 2010.” [Online]. Accessed: 21 October 2010. URL:

Gunasingham, A., 2010. “Air quality worst since 2006.” Strait Times. 21 October 2010. [Online]. Accessed: 21 October 2010. URL:

Jakarta Globe, 2010. “Haze from Indonesia Forces Malaysian Schools to Shut: Report.” 20 October 2010. [Online]. Accessed: 21 October 2010. URL: 

Star Online, 2010. “Haze woes in Johor and Malacca.” 20 October 2010. [Online]. Accessed: 21 October 2010. URL:

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