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The smell of burning is back in Singapore


Friday morning in Singapore

Image: @LimWuiLiang/twitter

UPDATE: Aug. 26, 2016, 11:43 a.m. SGT Updated PSI reading

SINGAPORE — Many in Singapore woke up on Friday to a burning smell.

Social media posts started flooding in with people complaining about the smell and smoggy views over the typically clear city.

According to the National Environment Agency’s PM2.5 readings, the air pollution levels started climbing quickly at around 9 a.m., reaching a high of 181 in the western part of the island by 11 a.m.

The NEA regards readings of between 51-100 as “moderate”, while 101-200 crosses into the “unhealthy” range.

The PM2.5 measures particles in the air 2.5 micrometres in diameter or smaller, which can be dangerous because they lodge deep inside the lungs.

The smog has for years been a result of deliberate forest burning in Indonesia, although it’s not clear yet if we can pin Friday’s sudden spike in air pollution on the neighbouring country.

On Thursday, the Indonesian police released data to show it’s stepped up arrests made in connection with forest fires, in an effort to demonstrate bigger efforts to stop the burning.

Illegal slash-and-burning has been a perennial problem in Indonesia, where farmers there set their crops ablaze to quickly clear them for new planting. The resulting smog that floats over is also a pain to neighbouring countries like Singapore and Malaysia, which typically complain of thick pollution during this time of year.

Last year, Indonesia tried revving up efforts to clamp down on the burning. It suspended four corporations connected to pulp and paper plantations that were burning crops, and arrested another 70 farmers who owned those plantations.

Indonesia’s fires produced so much carbon dioxide in those months that it pushed the country up to fourth in the world of global carbon emitters in 2015. The fires single-handedly tripled the country’s annual emissions last year.

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