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Haze preparations in place, says Minister Balakrishnan

Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said Singapore is far better prepared for transboundary haze after its experiences last year.

SINGAPORE: Preparations are in place among Government agencies and at the community level should the haze appear again this year, said Environment and Water Resources Minister, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan on Monday (July 7).

He told Parliament that hotspots in Sumatra increased to 143 on June 25. The likelihood of an El Nino weather pattern during the current South West Monsoon could also mean an extended dry season with a higher risk of transboundary haze.

Dr Balakrishnan said while Indonesia has to do more in fire prevention efforts, Singapore has also offered its help in suppressing fires. The haze assistance offered include one C-130 aircraft for cloud seeding operations and a team from SCDF to provide assessment and planning assistance to Indonesian counterparts in fire-fighting efforts.

At the community level, masks have been distributed to all households and WeCare packages containing masks and eye drops were distributed to lower income and needy families.

Dr Balakrishnan said the Inter-Agency Haze Task Force has also met and its plans will be activated, if the need arises.

"After our experience last year, Singapore and Singaporeans are far better prepared if anything untoward were to occur this year,” the minister said. “Singaporeans are aware that haze can come, it can arrive unpredictably and very quickly. I mean it takes literally about six hours from the onset of the plume to be brought across the narrow straits to us.”

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