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Singapore wakes up to another polluting day of haze

Singapore's landmark Marina Bay Sands Hotel has been clouded for yet another day as pollution continues to blight the city. Credit: RTV
Haze from illegal fires in Indonesia have enveloped skyscrapers in the worst pollution to ever hit the city. Credit: RTV
Tourist boats were barely visible in the thick smog, which has been whipped up by heavy winds. Credit: RTV

Firefighters continue to tackle Indonesia forest fires

Firefighters are continuing to tackle forest fires in Indonesia that have led to a thick haze in some cities as well as Singapore and parts of Malaysia.

Firefighters spray water on burning palm oil trees in Dumai, Indonesia Credit: Reuters

Hospitals in Dumai and Bengkalis in Indonesia's Riau province have recorded increases in cases of asthma, lung, eye and skin problems, health official Arifin Zainal told Reuters.

Volunteers prepare new face masks to give to residents.

Free face masks are being distributed and authorities have advised residents to stay indoors with their windows shut.

Some of the fires are believed to have been started illegally by farmers to clear land. Credit: Reuters

Read: Record pollution as smoky haze shrouds Singapore

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Record pollution as smoky haze shrouds Singapore

Air pollution levels in Singapore have soared to a 16-year record high for a third consecutive day, as a smoky haze from forest fires in Indonesia shrouds the city state.

Its main air pollution index hit a measurement of 401 at midday, which is classified as "hazardous" and can aggravate respiratory ailments, the Associated Press reports.

A man wearing a mask walks past the skyline of Singapore's business district Credit: Reuters/Edgar Su

Indonesia's Environment Minister met with Singapore's Environment and Water Resources Minister today to discuss solutions and efforts to mitigate the impact of the fires.

People wearing masks as they cross a street in Singapore's Orchard Road Shopping Area Credit: Reuters

The haze is a recurring problem as a result of forest fires in the dry season, some of which are deliberately started to clear land for cultivation.

A firefighter sprays water into burnt peatland in Palalawan district in Riau province Credit: Reuters/Fikih Nauli

Elephants suffer as forestry habitat destroyed

The Sumatran elephant, one of the smallest of the Asian elephants, is the most endangered elephant in the world. Currently there are between 2,400 and 2,800 left, making the species "critically endangered", according to Elephant Family.

Raja the elephant has been captured by villagers close to a palm oil plantation in Indonesia
Raja the elephant has been captured by villagers close to a palm oil plantation in Indonesia Credit: Jim Wickens/Ecologist Film Unit

Like all Asian elephants, the Sumatran elephant is threatened by poaching and habitat loss, caused by increasing demand for palm oil: Across Indonesia hundreds of thousands of acres of tropical rainforests and peatlands have been destroyed to make way for plantations.

oil plantation and bare land within the PT Tunggal Perkasa Plantations in Lirik, Indragiri, Hulu, Riau. Credit: Credit: Kemal Jufri / Greenpeace

Environmentalists and scientists say that 65% of Aceh’s forest needs protected to save the Sumatran elephant, and the government's current plan would only allow for 45% to be protected - a difference of way over a million hectares.

Watch: New law could leave Sumatran elephants homeless

More: Ecologist Film Unit

Campaign to rescue wild baby elephant Raja

Elephant Family have started a campaign to rescue wild baby elephant Raja.
Elephant Family have started a campaign to rescue wild baby elephant Raja. Credit: Jim Wickens/ITV News

UK elephant conservation charity, Elephant Family, have launched a campaign to rescue baby elephant Raja, captured by villagers in Indonesia a few weeks ago.

Watch: New law could leave Sumatran elephants homeless

Villagers are holding the baby elephant to ransom to ask their government to protect them from the fallout of the startling loss of habitat rapid deforestation is creating. As Jo Cary-Elwes from Elephant Family explains:

"The status of the Sumatran elephant was changed to “critically endangered” at the end of 2011, meaning they are in imminent danger of extinction. 85% of their habitat is located outside of protected areas and is constantly vulnerable to conversion.

"Forest conversion (for things like palm oil and paper pulp) results in conflict with humans: Stressed and starving herds are fleeing from the chainsaws in search of safety and food, as the elephants walk through farmland they destroy people’s crops and livelihoods."

Read: Elephants 'forced into villages by deforestation'

More: Elephant Family launch 'Save Baby Raja' campaign.

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Palm oil used in 'hundreds of UK products'

In the UK, most major food manufacturers use palm oil, normally labelled as "vegetable oil."

43 of the 100 most popular products in our supermarket shelves contain palm oil, according to Greenpeace. It is commonly found in the following:

  • Biscuits
  • Peanut butter
  • Cereals
  • Chocolate

Palm oil is also used in household objects, including:

  • Lipstick
  • Laundry detergent
  • Body lotion

More: Palm Oil information on the Elephant Family website

New law could leave Sumatran elephants homeless

Demand for palm oil - a substance found in many everyday products - is threatening some of the world's most endangered species.

The rapid expansion of palm oil plantations in Indonesia has already led to the clearance of large tracts of rainforest, driving out animals like tigers, orangutans and Sumatran elephants.

Campaigners fear a new law may soon be passed which would open up another area the size of Yorkshire to the diggers.

ITV News' Science Editor Lawrence McGinty reports:

Haze hides Singapore after illegal Sumatra jungle fires

The haze is the result of illegal burning of forests in Indonesia.
The haze is the result of illegal burning of forests in Indonesia. Credit: RTV

A haze is blanketing Singapore after fires in Indonesia, which could persist for weeks or even longer, according to the Prime Minister.

The Singapore skyline has been obscured by the smoke haze.
The Singapore skyline has been obscured by the smoke haze. Credit: APTN

Lee Hsien Loong warned of consequences if Singapore-linked companies were found responsible for the burning.

The illegal burning of forests and other land on Indonesia's Sumatra island, to the west of Singapore, to clear space for palm oil plantations is a chronic problem, particularly during the June to September dry season.

The Singapore skyline has been obscured by the smoke haze.
The Singapore skyline has been obscured by the smoke haze. Credit: APTN

At 1 pm local time yesterday, Singapore's pollution standards index (PSI) soared to a new high of 371, indicating air quality was "hazardous".

The Singapore skyline has been obscured by the smoke haze.
The Singapore skyline has been obscured by the smoke haze. Credit: APTN

Elephants 'forced into villages by deforestation'

Critically endangered wild Sumatran elephants are being forced into villages as their forests are destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations, according to environment campaigners.

Deforestation for palm oil plantations mean elephants are forced to look for food in villages, and crop plantations.
Deforestation for palm oil plantations mean elephants are forced to look for food in villages, and crop plantations. Credit: Jim Wickens/Ecologist Film Unit

As forests shrink, elephants are increasingly close to fields and cultivated land - instead of eating the produce of the forests they increasingly eat and destroy crops grow by local small-scale farmers.

Raja, a wild baby Sumatran elephant, has been captured by locals.
Raja, a wild baby Sumatran elephant, has been captured by locals. Credit: Jim Wickens/Ecologist Film Unit

This generates conflict with humans that often results in poisoning or capture for the elephants.

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