Apocalypse-like scenes in China
Singapore is not the only country battling thick plumes of smoke.
A blanket of dark hazardous smog engulfed the Chinese city of Shenyang, a major industrial centre, sending the PM2.5 readings into the thousands.
That’s right, thousands.
At pollution readings of over 1,400, the city descended into a doomsday-like vision with buildings and roads obstructed by air pollution. Flights were grounded, highways closed, and residents forced to stay indoors.
Overnight, the city of 5 million people came to a standstill.
With Singapore’s population of 5.5 million, we are about the same size as Shenyang.
China’s air pollution woes are caused by industrial emissions, while Singapore’s grim predicament is a result of forest fires from Indonesia.
Yet in both countries, it is the residents are hit hardest by the effects of poor air quality.
Schools closed for the first time on 25 Sept, as PSI readings hit 316 the night before.
Then, on 19 October, the one-hour PSI reading for Western Singapore shot up to 471 without warning at 11pm, after sharply rising from a reading of 51 at 8pm.
China’s miraculous clear skies
But the skies aren’t always gloomy in China.
During Beijing’s massive military parade in September, residents enjoyed miraculous blue skies and its air pollution index was a jaw-droppingly pristine 17 out of 500.
The truth however, was that Beijing’s crystal clear backdrop was orchestrated weeks ahead. The entire region was locked down to guarantee clear skies for its largest ever parade, hundreds of factories were shut while its five million registered cars were banned from the streets.
Many shared photos of the clear skies on social media.
— Gabe Klein (@gabe_klein) September 4, 2015
Less than 24 hours after the parade, Beijing’s skies went back to smoggy grey. Residents were quick to mock the episode, calling it “parade blue”, the latest episode of manipulating the skies to put up a temporary picture perfect impression.
“It’s not sky blue or ocean blue. It’s not Prussian blue or Tiffany blue,” wrote a Weibo user in a news report, regarding the trend. A few years ago it was Olympic blue and then Apec Blue. It quickly began to mean something that was fleeting, fake and too good to be true.
Singapore’s skies clear up
In early November, skies in Singapore cleared after a really long time. The start of the monsoon season, paired with favourable wind conditions cleared the grey smog, revealing the blue skies behind. Many took to social media to celebrate, not knowing how long the respite will last.
The sun finally starting to punch its way through the haze and clouds in Singapore. Wind & rain have helped. pic.twitter.com/LX5HZylN4V
— Darren Cahill (@darren_cahill) October 30, 2015
And while there was no man-made tinkering when Singapore’s skies cleared, perhaps there should have been.
Less trees should have been burnt and more pressure should have been put onto those responsible. Because as China has shown, clear skies can appear overnight.
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