If people thought last June’s record haze was bad, they should be prepared for it to get even worse this year as the Singaporean government is bracing itself against such a scenario, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan and the National Environment Agency (NEA) outlined the potential seriousness of the situation in a briefing on Thursday.
First, haze hit Singapore earlier this month as the region suffered a prolonged dry spell. This is unusually early compared to the traditional June to September dry season in Indonesia, when most burning to clear land takes place.
Second, the recent haze in Riau province in Sumatra, Indonesia, is worse than last year. Riau, directly across the Straits of Malacca from Singapore, has suffered from severe haze since February.
Third, the NEA confirmed that most climate models are predicting that an El Nino weather phenomenon – linked to droughts in Southeast Asia – will develop in the second half of 2014. A dry, El Nino year in the region “is usually associated with aggravated haze”, said Dr Balakrishnan.