Hazardous haze not affecting Indians’ craze for Singapore

Singapore, Oct 8 (IANS) They might struggle while taking selfies in front of Singapore’s Merlion or other tourist attractions, or occasionally have a bit of cough and cold problems during their stay in Singapore. But Indian tourists seem undeterred from making a trip to Singapore despite the smoky haze caused by the forest fires in Indonesia.

According to the latest online accommodation booking website Hotels.com’s Hotel Price Index report, Singapore replaced Dubai and bagged the top position as the most preferred international destination by Indian travellers in the first half of 2015.

Clearly, the haze has not affected Singapore from being the tourist attraction that it is.

Amit Agarwal, senior marketing manager of Hotels.com, told IANS: “There is no big impact of the haze. The business is as usual in Singapore.

“Despite haze, travellers’ sentiments remain strong and they are making the most of their visit to Singapore. Instead of sightseeing outdoors, they are turning to indoor attractions or probably staying in the hotel to enjoy the facilities.”

He also said that in case the situation worsens, the National Environment Agency in Singapore will issue the relevant health advisories.

During this IANS correspondent’s visit to The Lion City — where Indians are said to make up 9.2 percent of the total population of 5.5 million — earlier this month, the air quality wasn’t good. But that didn’t dampen the excitement of exploring the clean and well-planned city, which looks as attractive in the day as with its beautifully lit skyline at night.

According to nea.gov.sg <http://nea.gov.sg/>, the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) was over 150, which indicates an unhealthy range.

While daily life didn’t seem to have taken a hit due to the haze, expecting mothers could be seen with masks on their face.

A young mother from Singapore was seen enjoying the morning sunshine with her two-year-old son.

“It rained, so the visibility is better now. Singapore has been facing haze problem for years now, so we are used to it. If it’s too smoggy, we try our best to stay indoors,” she told IANS.

An Indian tourist who seemed unaffected said: “So what if there is haze in Singapore? India is so polluted and we have been living there for years.”

An Australian tourist was also spotted trying hard to take selfies in front of the Merlion. But despite repeated attempts, he wasn’t satisfied with the outcome.

“The haze is such a problem. I am trying to get nice shots of the Merlion and the Marina Bay Sands, but the visibility is so poor that I am unable to get some good photographs. I’m here just for three days and don’t have breathing problems, so I’m not bothered about the health issues,” he said.

According to e101.gov.sg <http://e101.gov.sg/>, hazy conditions usually occur in Singapore between May and October due to forest fires in the region. The prevailing Southwest Monsoon winds blow smoke from the fires in their direction. These forest fires are caused mainly by land clearing and “slash and burn” agricultural practices in Indonesia.

A Singapore Tourism Board (STB) representative told IANS that the current hazy weather conditions have affected Singapore’s tourism establishments and events, in particular those with an outdoor component. However, it’s open to all!

“Singapore continues to welcome tourists during this time of trans-boundary haze but they are advised to exercise extra caution during these intermittent hazy weather conditions,” said Oliver Chong, executive director, Communications, STB.

The health impact of haze is dependent on one’s health status (whether one has pre-existing chronic heart or lung disease), the PSI level, and the duration and intensity of outdoor activity.

Reducing outdoor activities and physical exertion can help limit the ill effects from haze exposure. Persons who are not feeling well, especially the elderly and children, and those with chronic heart or lung conditions, should seek medical attention, experts advise.

(Natalia Ningthoujam can be contacted at natalia.n@ians.in)

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