The life-threatening Singapore haze, which reached record highs for air pollution readings, has now sparked the first arrest. The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) broke through the 400 reading on Friday — which the BBC and other media sources reported as the highest-ever level in Singapore’s history.
CNN explained that a PSI reading of 300 is considered hazardous and potentially deadly to older people or those with health conditions. A reading of 400 means that even healthy people are potentially at risk.
With schools shut and pregnant women, children, and older people advised to remain inside, the Singapore haze has represented more than a minor nuisance.
The PSI reading has since dropped from its peak as a result of shifting winds, but the danger is far from over. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsieng Long has warned that the haze could linger for weeks — and he’s angry about it.
Singapore blames the island chain nation of Indonesia for the practice of burning forests, which causes the smoke which created the haze.
In recent days, Indonesia has flung the blame right back at Singapore, with officials there saying that the burning is occurring on plantations held by interests from Singapore and Malaysia. Multiple media sources suggested that Indonesia’s laws against illegal land clearing by burning forests were weakly enforced.
However, the Jakarta Globe has now reported the first arrest for one of the fires. According to their report:
“In an effort to crack down on those responsible for forest fires sweeping through parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan, police in Rokan Hilir, Riau, announced on Monday that they arrested a former Bank Rakyat Indonesia official accused of illegally burning large swaths of his own land.”
The arrest may have been spurred less by Singapore’s fury and more by the fact that a 400 PSI was also reported from Riau, Indonesia in the wake of the ongoing air pollution disaster.
The current level of air pollution in Singapore is now moderate, but Malaysia is reporting a terrifying 16-year high PSI reading of 750 in parts of southern Malaysia.
Depending on how the air shifts, the deadly Singapore haze could return.
[Singapore haze photo by Soham Banerjee via Flickr, Creative Commons]