haze haze and nothing but haze

October 26 1994

Haze, haze and nothing but haze. It has dominated our lives for six weeks and each day we look out we’re confronted by a grey fog nothing at all like the ‘bright golden haze on the meadow’ in Oklahoma.
Look at the atlas and you’ll see that to the west of Singapore lies the large island of Sumatra and to the south-east lies the equally large Kalimantan and both have dense tropical forests. In the annual clearance, farmers and loggers set fire to vast patches of undergrowth and the fires have been smouldering for the past month and a half and plumes of smoke have been pouring forth. We’re affected when the wind blows from the west one day and from the south-east the next. Both islands are waiting for the winter monsoon and while they are we’re being smoked out of it. Things are fine when it rains, the rain washes the haze away, but an hour later it’s back. The Ministry of the Environment tells us it’s in the ‘unhealthy’ range at present, about 130 on the PSI, the Pollution Standard Index. On a scale of one to five hundred that isn’t alarming but it’s uncomfortable for people with asthma and a slight risk for patients with heart conditions. To everyone else it’s a nuisance and a literal eyesore for many. On worse than normal days, outdoor activities such as PE in schools and jogging are officially discouraged. In a hot humid climate such as ours there’s no question of keeping windows and doors shut; besides, the bloody smoke would get in anyway. It isn’t smelly most of the time but on occasion it is. The monsoon rains are due in Indonesia at the beginning of next month so they should put the fires out once and for all. These fires are on a huge scale and thousands of hectares of forest are affected. Ground access to these areas is either difficult or impossible as there aren’t any roads in the heart of the forest where fire engines and the like can go. The idea of dropping water from the air has been discussed but it’s expensive and furthermore most of the fires are in undergrowth and in coal seams which water from the air in superficial amounts wouldn’t penetrate; only sustained rain can do that.
It has just turned midday and as i look out the window i can see the haze is back with a vengeance. Now it’s a bluish grey, not unlike a dull november afternoon in Ireland when the sky seems to come down to the ground and it’s in smelly mode, the acrid pungent odour of burning bush.


I wrote that 21 years ago and today in September 2015 we still have a haze
problem in Singapore. Right now, the reading is 317.
Despite meeting after meeting and promise after promise that the issue
would be resolved nothing has been done. Powerful people with vested
interests will always have their way.

31 thoughts on “haze haze and nothing but haze

  1. Amazing John. Seems there are a lot of us that have had a sense of things to come. I’ve written on things I dreamed that are starting to happen now. It’s quite eerie sometimes how our intuition can tell us things to be watchful about. Great post.

  2. Amazing. I’d never heard of that problem. Singapore has a reputation for being clean.
    What must it be like for the people on those islands? Good thing to be forewarned about if wanting to visit Singapore.

    • We’ve been bothered by this awful haze for so many years
      and nothing done…all talk, no action..i know that sounds
      familiar in so many other places.

      Thank you, Eileen…and september/october is never a good time to visit.

      my best


  3. Good to see your posts again, Brother John. Sorry to see the haze index has gone up. By the time I finished I could smell the smoke. Follow the money and that explains most things.

  4. As you say, John – powerful people with vested
    interests will always have their way. One day, perhaps, the worlkd will be run by honest men (and women). Good to read your writing once more.
    Take care. Chris.

  5. Yes John, it’s been exactly the same here until today when, for the first time in a month, I can now see the Angthong Islands. So maybe something has changed over there. Rod

    Sent from my iPad


  6. Can’t complain of haze at east coast of Australia but always vigilant for the nasty bush fires threats. It seems, John, wherever we are the weather conditions provide a dosage of one nasty and uncomfortable element but the more we treat the earth and sky with kindness the less the nastiness may get even if 21 years is no short wait 😦

  7. What is clean air to a politician, an opportunity to gain money and power. Would they resolve the issue, of course not! But they will see that endless studies are funded at the expense of the populous and channeled to the environmental or science departments of their alma matters or favorite university friends. Nothing like copious amounts of money and nepotism to ensure longevity in public office and power. But alas my dear friend you knew the acrid odor would lead directly to the money trail if followed. Worthless bureaucracy! I am glad you are back at the desk penning enjoyable reading for me. Ever your friend Jon Michael.

  8. I feel for you John. In our immediate region, semi-arid desert, where winter brings little relief in terms of precipitation and spring and summer are horribly bone-dry, wildfires throughout this mountainous region are an annual threat and reality. The vast majority of these fires ravage mountain interfaces but we do have occasional horrible events where wind-driven wildfires sweet down through residential areas and many homes are consumed by the molten-hot demons…and in some cases lost human and animal lives as well.

    As you have described here, John, the resultant smoke billowing from these wildfires plume in choking masses that can stretch across our entire province as thousand upon thousands of hectares of pristine grasslands, forested mountain interface and homes are ravaged to ruin. Back in July the smoke was so dense we could not see the apartment building right across the street and most other days for three months the gorgeous mountain backdrop was nearly completely obscured.

    Sadly, in our area many of these fires are caused by careless human incidents (sometimes intentional), others by lightning strikes. The smoke takes on that sickly, eerie pallor and to breath it can be detrimental to anyone with lung/respiratory health issues, or heart-related illness as you have mentioned.

    We love our summers and the powerfully striking geography of the region yet there is that ever-present uneasy anticipation of things to come as part of life where we choose to call home. We have lived within several blocks of those raging wildfires and in that instance out of an insidious fear for our own well-being we hurriedly packed suitcases (and precious, irreplaceable belongs i.e. family photos), loaded our car and left the area for two days.

    Stay safe and well John. Warmest regards.

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