I could still vividly recall the dark dreary overcast sky when the people’s princess was laid to rest on 6/9/1997. Link The sad moving dignified state funeral was telecast live on television with Elton John singing “Candle In The Wind” accompanied by piano. Most of us stayed indoors to catch the tragic event telecast live on television as the haze was then at it’s height. The heaven seemed to mourn for the people’s princess. Everyone avoided outdoor activities. I remember the yearly haze was not so bad before that. It was tolerable then. From that year 1997 onwards, it’s getting worst especially this year, the haze seems to last longer than usual and more intense.
Our Indonesian friend publicly said that it will take 3 years for them to solve the haze problem. I hope he knows what he’s talking about. It’s already 18 years since that memorable haze and it looks like it’s going to stay with us forever. To declare that 3 years could stop this nuisance is like talking through his ass!
Just few days ago, I related the above to my Filipino pax. He boarded my taxi at The Metropolis to Clementi Loop directing all the way to his destination by sitting on the front seat. The pax told me that he’s a PR here for the past 10 years and every year, like all of us have to tolerate this health hazard.
“Why are you all not doing anything? Why your government not doing anything?”
I told him that we are a small country. A tiny red dot. We are powerless and can’t do much except to make some noise every year when it happens.
“Look, you’ve got a powerful airforce. Just go over there and bomb those assholes! Teach them a lesson!”
I nearly got a heart attack and nearly lost control of the taxi when I heard that langgar comment. That guy looked very well educated. He spoke like Obama in perfect American accent in a loud commanding voice – just like he directed the route all the way to his destination by giving me clear directions. Immediately, I told him it’s madness to do such unthinkable thing. It’s a declaration of war! We would also be killing innocent lives. That’s not a civilized way to do things in a modern civilized world.
“Look, by burning their vast forests year after year sending toxic fumes, gases, ashes and smoke over to your country is akin to slowly “killing” your own people here. Over the long run, more and more of your innocent people here will die. If your government is so particular about second hand cigarette smoke by banning smoking in almost every corner of the island, I say this yearly haze is even worst than cigarette smoke! If second hand cigarette smoke could cause cancer and other respiratory diseases, don’t you think that this unhealthy thick haze is even much worst? It’s just that nobody highlights it. It’s not politically correct to highlight this life threatening phenomenon. But I’m telling you the hard truth. Think over what I just said” I passed him a mask and he put it on straightaway!
I then told him that my brother also had the same line of thinking. That’s why my brother and his family migrated to Vancouver about 8 years ago where the air quality is so much better. The water is also so much cleaner there. For these 2 precious things, my brother is willing to give up his birthrights here – his executive flat, brand new Toyota Wish, a maid, $6K teaching job etc not to mention his right to choose the government of the day in this unfriendly neighborhood (region) – in exchange for clean air and water! When my Filipino pax heard it, he commented that it’s a wise move.
I told him I’m different. Whether there’s haze for one month or the whole year, I’ll still live here cuz this is my country and my home. I would rather go childless than adopt cuz it’s not mine and doesn’t carry my genes. The adopted child is not my own flesh and blood. Similarly, no adopted country for me. It’s as simple as that.
Notwithstanding the exchange I had with my Filipino pax, I feel that if it is a man made disaster, it should be able to be solved. If it’s a natural disaster, then it’s God’s will. Question is will this seasonal haze stay with us for the rest of our life and many more generations to come? Do we want to be known as a beautiful sunny tropical island without 4 seasons but with a seasonal haze? Like I ever mentioned on my previous blog, we are merely farmers minding our plots of land. We will leave it to the newly sworn in cabinet to handle this man made national disaster which is killing us softly slowly.
On my part, I’ve stocked up lots of face masks in my taxi. Courtesy from cryptic Chiu from EM. From the freely available face masks, I noticed some interesting characters. Some pax offered to buy the masks from me. Some would just take one piece when I told them to take extra. They say leave it for others to use. Some would not utter a word but quietly “stole” few and quickly put inside their bags. Some would decline cuz it’s not branded like the N95 they were looking for! However most of them are appreciative thinking that it’s from my taxi company. I just told them remember to take my company taxi then!
But the most sobering conversation I eavesdropped from a PRC couple when I picked them from a condominium at Pasir Ris Grove to ICA is that they commented that our country is so tiny that when they started burning some forests and with a change in wind direction, the whole country suffer! They spoke to me in English when they boarded my taxi. They thought that I’m a Malay due to my dark complexion. Most of my PRC pax thought that I’m a Malay until I started to speak to them in Mandarin. The pregnant wife was complaining about the irritating haze in this “愧地方”! She said it’s more than a month and the haze doesn’t seem to go away. When they reached ICA to renew their passes (I overheard them talking about it), I collected the fare and before they alight, I told the wife to go back to China and leave this “愧地方” cuz the haze is not healthy for her unborn child.
I even received sms haze sarcasm from frens. Sample of such sms…
Every year, this seasonal haze will end soon after our 7th month ghost festival and National Day celebrations. But it seems that this year, in SG50, the haze outlasts them all! When will we get back our clear sky? When will the haze go away? We will never know. Only heaven knows. So let us all pray hard and urge heaven to grant us our wish for clean air and clear sky.