Air Pollution – Still a Problem for Singaporeans?


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Featured image from Reuters: https://amp.scmp.com/news/asia/southeast-asia/article/3027263/singapore-haze-reaches-worst-level-three-years-indonesian

There are different types of pollution, such as light and water. These can be seen for the most part. A more invisible yet highly talked about pollution is air pollution. Hence, we decided to investigate air pollution, which can be classified as the presence or introduction into the air of a substance which has harmful or poisonous effects.

As there has not been a serious case of haze in Singapore since the infamous 2015 Haze, which saw PSI levels rise to over 300[1], Singapore’s air is generally considered to be clean as the National Environmental Agency of Singapore reports that the PSI levels in Singapore generally remains below 50 PSI, meaning safe levels of air quality.

Singapore air quality at night[2] 

Due to this, many Singaporeans might have forgotten about the negative effects of serious air pollution. However, scientific research has shown that air pollution is actually very high in urban cities, including Singapore.

The main causes of air pollution in Singapore are emissions from industries and different vehicles on our roads. External examples include smoke haze from forest fires in the region, affecting Singapore’s air quality negatively. In an urban environment, sources of air pollution also involve the built environment, such as heating of buildings, construction and traffic in the urban areas.

Air pollution has many detrimental effects to the health and well-being of humans. These include difficulty in breathing, asthma, coughing, and correlate with strokes, heart disease, lung cancer, acute and chronic respiratory diseases. The World Health Organisation estimates that every year, air pollution causes around 7 million deaths around the world[3]. Clearly, air pollution is an enormous issue.

As a result, we were very interested to find out what Singaporeans’ opinions of air pollution were and what solutions they could come up with. We conducted a survey[4] with respondents of different age ranges.

Through the survey, we realised that Singaporeans are not fully aware of the severity of the current air pollution in Singapore. 81.9% of the respondents rated the severity of Singapore’s air pollution below 5 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being very severe, as seen in the graph below.

Survey responses

Although an overwhelming majority of respondents (91.9%), agreed that the government should invest money to combat air pollution, only 16.7% of respondents feel that air pollution deserves the most attention and action out of all the different types of pollution in Singapore. One respondent indicated that water pollution is a problem that warrants more attention than air pollution as Singapore does not have “clean and fresh water to drink”, with “water security” being “especially important”.

The respondents were asked to evaluate their personal knowledge on air pollution on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being very knowledgeable. While the responses were generally spread out across the numbers, a majority evaluated their knowledge on air pollution as average, at a score of 5. From this, we can see that Singaporeans are generally aware of the issue of air pollution. In reality, the air pollution levels in Singapore over time is shown below.

Singapore PSI over the years[5]

A clear increase in pollution levels is observed from 2014 onwards. Even in years where Singapore was not affected by transboundary haze, the air pollution was still much worse than the years before 2014. This shows that in reality, while the air pollution is indeed not unhealthy, there is a trend of the air quality worsening each year. Although 2020 showed an improvement in air quality, it was due to less industrial work from factories due to the Circuit Breaker. Hence the air was much cleaner than previous years.

Solutions

To mitigate the air pollution problem in Singapore, majority of the respondents agreed upon “tak[ing] public transport instead of private transport”.

Singaporeans’ mode of transport[6]

However, there is a stark contrast between our survey responses and the graph above, suggesting that at the present moment, public transport is not convenient enough to replace private vehicles, which can take you to any place that public transport cannot reach. Moreover, it also shows perhaps Singaporeans are still too lazy to walk a distance to reach their destination, even if it means decreasing their carbon footprint. To encourage people to take public transport, the government could implement heavier taxes on cars. This would then discourage people from using their private vehicles, and motivate them to take public transport.

With regards to the government, a respondent suggested that “carbon taxes” could be implemented on “industries that emit a lot of carbon”. The implementation of carbon taxes can be effective, as it indirectly reduces air pollution by discouraging industries from emitting large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.

There are also a few solutions implemented in Singapore and areas around the globe to protect people from air pollution. For example, on a smaller, personal scale, wearing N95 masks outdoors helps to filter out harmful particles in polluted air. Moreover, air purifiers can be used in homes to purify the polluted air, preventing further harm to one’s health.

The government has also taken steps to protect people from air pollution, with more trees to be planted in Singapore. An increasing number of Singaporeans are volunteering to participate in community tree-planting activities. Trees not only improve the visual aspect of Singapore by making us seem greener, but it also makes the air fresher.

Community tree-planting event[7] 

Through photosynthesis, trees help reduce carbon dioxide in the air, and the greenhouse gas effect in the atmosphere. Planting trees and plants help to produce clean air for us to breathe, an effective and environmentally-friendly solution to mitigate air pollution.

Our research shows that air pollution in Singapore should not be easily overlooked by the people. It is an ongoing issue in other countries as well as Singapore and warrants the attention of the government as well as the locals.


References

[1] Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_Southeast_Asian_haze #Singapore

[2] National Environment Agency: https://www.haze.gov.sg/resources/readings-over-the-last-24-hours

[3] World Health Organisation – Air Pollution: https://www.who.int/health-topics/air-pollution#tab=tab_2

[4] Google Forms – Survey: https://forms.gle/keFT88Cu3US59WKo7

[5] Channel News Asia: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/sustainability/air-quality-singapore-improved-2020-slowdown-economic-and-transport-activities-nea-report-2212651

[6] The Straits Times: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/more-spore-residents-take-trains-and-buses-to-work-fewer-drive-to-the-office-population

[7] NParks – OneMillionTrees Movement: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/treessg/one-million-trees-movement

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  • Micah Jing

    Dedicated writer of Raffles Publications. My hobbies include playing a wide variety of sports and I'm a person who is very interested in politics and current affairs.

  • Ethan Lim

    My passions are writing. I actively follow a wide variety of sports and especially love playing tennis.

  • Kendrick Tan

    I play genshin and I like growing. I also watch football.