Effects of Haze in the region

While it is true that haze has not killed many directly, an atmosphere obscured by the suspension of these fine particles can have many other direct and indirect socio-economic consequences on society.
Most obviously, a society will face problems with physical mobility. Due to the haze, visibility drops, and the air quality drops, giving it a singing smell. This discourages people from leaving their homes. This is especially so if the haze comes swiftly and unexpectedly like the one Singapore experienced during the 2013 June holidays. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Environment related issues may seem like an inherent harm, but these issues can bring about greater ills in society as well. 
Most tangibly, health problems arise. Especially when those with breathing problems like asthma and chronic bronchitis leave their homes without the proper precaution like the N95 masks, the perils of the haze are exacerbated. In worse cases like the haze in the South-East Asian region of 1997, a plane collided into a mountainside of Medan, killing all 256 passengers – this was attributed to poor visibility that is coupled with the haze.

This then leads to hospital bed crunches. In the case of Singapore, in the short span of a week or so, the National University Hospital (NUH) has seen a 10% increase in patients, and this caused a lack of beds considering the dengue spike prior to the haze episode. Certainly, experiencing these illnesses affects society’s quality of living in general.

Down the line, government expenditure on healthcare rises consequentially for the public is unsatisfied with the lack of beds due to the spike in health-related cases. Recognising that budget is limited and that we cannot “have the cake and eat it”, this health expenditure comes at an opportunity cost – it would mean less spending on other areas like housing or transport. These are all the indirect consequences of the haze that one cannot physically experience.

Besides health, social interaction is compromised as well – most directly people cannot attend go outdoors to meet friends or engage in personal activities like exercise. This may seem very much minor, but these small things add up to alter the way of life of the community for the worse. It is also worth noting that the extension of the haze is proportional to the limits placed on the choices of the people.

That’s not all there is to the haze – on top of health-related issues, there are economic consequences as well. Most obviously, tourism drops. Hotel rooms, travel groups and flights are cancelled, bringing tangible economic losses that, once again, are proportional to the duration of the haze. However, more insidiously is the impact on economic work in and of itself. People are less willing to go outdoors to work, more likely to call in sick, and more likely to give excuses, legitimate or not. This is pernicious not because of the pure number of hours lost, but that coupled with the fact that it is a sudden occurrence – the 30 hours lost, for instance, is not spread evenly over the entire year, but rather is concentrated in that one week. This deals great blows to businesses not only in terms of unexpected drops in revenue, but also to their reputation – people see them as less reliable. As a corollary of this, Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) lose out because they depend very much on a solid, constant customer support, rather than pure quality-based attraction of customers.

Certainly, the haze problem, usually existence in SEA, has and will continue to cause the above social and economic problems, direct and indirectly, in the short term and long term.


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Hi guys, I'm a student in Singapore, and this are some thoughts and essays I have written over the years.