Deep, thick haze clouds the air like the inside of a burning building. Breathing becomes a constant struggle and coughing becomes second nature.
We may be in for a recurrence of last year’s pollution emergency. If you were here in Singapore during the summer of 2013, you were likely affected by the haze that encompassed and polluted Singapore. Pollutant Standards Index levels (PSI) reached a record breaking rate of 400 due to the smog created by slash and burns in Indonesia a year ago.
Nine million masks were produced by the government to help dampen possible side effects from inhaling the toxic haze. Buildings were not visible from a distance and people were only allowed to walk in public for a certain amount of time before it was considered hazardous. The Singapore government filed the issue as an “urgent” emergency.
Pollution from Indonesia is regarded as an annual event, and it is no surprise that the PSI levels are back up. On Sunday, the PSI indicators hit 129 which, according to the Nation Environment Agency, is considered “unhealthy.” The skies were cloaked with haze and the sight of people wearing masks around the street was oddly familiar and almost apocalyptic.
Two weeks ago, the PSI levels rose to a surprising figure of 98 – slowly approaching the “unhealthy” boundary. Under such circumstances and due to the possible risk involved, the Athletic Council had no choice but to cancel the Cross Country race scheduled for after school at Pasir Ris, leaving many people stunned and confused.
Jack Devins, senior and captain of the cross country team, mentioned that the delays “hurt us because that’s a valuable race experience that we can’t get back. There are not many opportunities between now and IASAS.”
Kiersten Potter, sophomore IASAS runner for the cross country team, was also disappointed in the cancellation. “If practices were cancelled due to the PSI, we wouldn’t be able to peak or do our best in the upcoming IASAS” and that it would “affect the team dynamic.”
The cross countryteam did manage to get a race going that same Friday; however, it was against their own teammates. The race was not held in Pasir Ris (due to PSI levels), and it was not official.
Kiersten added, “If races in the future remain to be cancelled, we will try our best to still have those races even if it means competing with our own team.”
As for the overall safety of the school, Mr. Anthony Wong, the director of facilities and services here at SAS, stated that the school does “have in place a SAS Haze Protocol and Decision Making Matrix that would guide our actions should the PSI level deteriorates to unhealthy levels.”
According to Mr. Wong, the school also “has a Safety Committee with broad representation from the divisions and administration including the nurses and the bus office that provides guidance and monitoring on safety matters affecting students including the Haze health risks.”
Fortunately, as of the last few days, PSI rates have remained stable and moderately healthy – giving the citizens of Singapore and the students of SAS some breathing space.