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Pollution fears in Singapore

As pollution in Singapore soared to record levels recently, officials pressed Indonesia to curtail the widespread burning of forests, which they say is causing the stubborn haze enveloping the city-state. The Pollution Standards Index, a uniform system used by Singapore to measure pollution, hit 371, topping the previous record of 226, which was set in 1997. Health officials consider any level higher than 300 to be hazardous to health.

Residents were urged to remain indoors, while flight controllers at Changi Airport were told to take extra precautions in directing flights. In neighbouring Malaysia, more than 200 schools were ordered closed because of the pollution.

The persistence of the pollution has tested ties with Indonesia, where farmers in Sumatra often burn forests at this time of the year as a cheap way to prepare the land for new plantings. Although such burning violates local laws, Indonesian officials have failed to stop it.

The problems in Singapore and Malaysia come at a time of increasing concern about pollution across Asia, particularly in China, where pollution readings this year have been at least 30 percent higher than in previous years.

Gerry Mullany
New York Times News Service

China’s ten-step  policy

China’s Cabinet has adopted 10 measures to improve air quality in the latest move aimed at responding to the dense smog that has enveloped Beijing and other Chinese cities in recent years. Many of the measures had previously been enacted by some cities, or were the subject of national experiments . The newest and least-expected of them is a mandate that heavy polluters like coal-fired power plants and metal smelters must release detailed environmental information to the general public. Ma Jun, the director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, one of the best-known independent environmental activist groups in Beijing, said that 5,000 of the country’s biggest factories account for three-fifths of its industrial pollution, but that the public knows few details about their emissions.

Keith Bradsher
New York Times News Service

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