Drifting smoke from forest fires in Indonesia disrupts business and travel

A blanket of choking smog has pushed air pollution to record levels in Singapore and brought serious disruption to business and travel.

 Singapore’s air quality is now at what has been described as “hazardous” levels as a result of smoke from forest fires in Indonesia which has drifted over the state and also parts of neighbouring Malaysia.

Air traffic controllers are giving aircraft extra time between taking off and landing at Changi Airport because of poor visibility while construction and other outdoor work has come to a standstill as residents stay inside.

Fast-food giant McDonald’s has also suspended its delivery service.

The situation, which some experts claim could take several weeks to resolve, has led to a political row between Singapore and Indonesia.

Singapore’s Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said on Facebook: “No country or corporation has the right to pollute the air at the expense of Singaporeans’ health and well-being.”

Government officials have been sent to an emergency haze meeting in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

Balakrishnan said they would “insist on definitive action”.

The fires are caused by illegal burning of forest on Indonesia’s Sumatra island to clear land for palm oil plantations.

Singapore prides itself on its clean air and environment but now faces a crisis due to the situation which started to change on Monday this week.

By Thursday its pollution standards index stood at a record high of 371. A PSI reading above 300 indicates “hazardous” air, while a reading between 201 and 300 means “very unhealthy”.

The current level is well above the previous high of 226 in 1997 when smog from Indonesian fires disrupted shipping and air travel across Southeast Asia.

The South East Asia haze in 1997 and 1998 covered Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and the southern Philippines.

It is estimated to have caused around $9.3billion in economic losses and made 20 million people ill.