Asia Minute: Dangerous Haze Choking Parts of Southeast Asia

Sep 15, 2015

Kuala Lumpur in a blanket of haze.
Credit Wikipedia Commons

The return of the trade winds has helped to push some of that recent humid air away from the islands. The trade wind patterns also help keep vog away from most island residents. But in Southeast Asia, a different kind of haze is disrupting life for thousands of people.  HPR’s Bill Dorman has details in today’s Asia Minute. 

The air quality in a number of locations across Indonesia is so bad the government calls it “dangerous to breathe.”  Its haze caused by brush fires - including many set on purpose—and illegally-- to clear land to plant crops—largely palm oil and some timber operations.

Indonesia’s president has called out the army to help fight fires.  In Malaysia, officials have closed schools in three states - and they are seeding clouds to make it rain.

Flights around the region have been cancelled, diverted and disrupted.  Local media say several thousand people have evacuated the Indonesian city of Pekanbaru after a pollution measure deteriorated to a point more than triple the level that triggers a “hazardous” warning.  That city is less than 200 miles from Singapore where some outdoor weekend events were cancelled because of poor air quality.

This weekend Singapore is scheduled to host a Formula One Grand Prix race - a prestigious event for the city’s international reputation.  Right now, the race is going ahead as scheduled, but organizers say if haze causes “visibility, public health or operational issues,” they’ll “work closely with the relevant agencies before making any collective decisions regarding the event.”