A history of the haze
That is how long Indonesia's President Joko Widodo said the country needs to tackle the forest fires that are causing the haze.
In an interview with the BBC on Tuesday (Sept 29) Mr Widodo reiterated the steps that Indonesia has taken to tackle the fires but admitted that they needed time to solve them.
He said that the fires were "not a problem that you can solve quickly."
Minister of Defence Ng Eng Hen met Indonesia's Minister of Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Panjaitan, and Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu in Jakarta on Monday (Sept 28).
During the meeting, Dr Ng repeated that Singapore's offer to help Indonesia to resolve the haze crisis was still on the table.
Here's a recap of our long history with the haze:
The Straits Times Oct 19, 1961.
In October 1961, the haze caused visibility to deteriorate so heavily that that an aircraft flying from London missed its destination, Kuala Lumpur, and overflew to Singapore.
In The Straits Times report, a spokesman at a meteorological station at an air force base Penang, Malaysia, attributed the haze to "abnormal penetration into the north-hemisphere by southeasterly winds and air currents."
Reflecting on the extent of knowledge at that time, The Straits Times reported that they received several calls asking if the haze had anything to do with a nuclear fallout - which of course they quickly debunked.
The Straits Times Oct 18, 1972
The Straits Times reported that in Oct 18, 1972, the Indonesian Department of Agriculture insisted that there were no forest fires big enough to cause the haze that was smothering Singapore back then.
However an Indonesian Air Force Chief warned local authorities that forest fires were so bad that it was disrupting local air communications in the region.
This was confirmed by air crews flying over Sumatra who reported dense smoke in the Palembang region as well as by satellite images which showed large fires burning in Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo.
In October 1982, Mr Paul Loh from the Meteorological Service said that forest fires in Java and Sumatra were the cause of the haze which had plagued Singapore since August that same year.
The Straits Times Oct 13, 1982
Curiously, an officer from the Anti Pollution Unit (APU) said that the haze is not harmful to health.
The APU was formally set up in 1971 to monitor air pollution levels in Singapore. It was incorporated into the Ministry of Environment in April 1983.
The officer even cited how the number of people who suffered from coughs and colds was below the monthly average as compared to the previous year.
The Straits Times Oct 13, 1982
Worse was to come in October 1983, with The Straits Times reporting that the haze was the worst in 30 years.
Although no PSI value was given, the report said that visibility was reduced to less than one kilometre.
Then in 1984, The Straits Times reported that the then Indonesian Minister of Environment and Population, Mr Emil Salim, said that the forest fires which had caused the haze in 1983 were man-made.
Mr Emil said that farmers in Kalimantan used slash-and-burn methods to clear land to plant crops.
He said that the fires destroyed 3.6 million hectares of forest, which is 50 times the size of Singapore.
Changi Airport's iconic control tower shrouded by the haze in 1991. PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES
In the 1990s, the Environment Ministry introduced the Pollutants Standards Index (PSI) for the first time to allay public concerns about the health effects of the haze.
The PSI indicates the concentration of suspended particles, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and ozone in the air
Then in 1993, it was announced at the Asean technical workshop that a standard air pollution index, the PSI was extended to the rest of the region.
As visibility dropped to one kilometre, in October 1991, Indonesian Forestery Minister Hasjrul Harahap demanded that developed countries match words with deeds and provide them training and equipment to help them fight fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra.
This comment drew fire from western diplomats who said the criticism was unjustified as they had not received any formal request for help from the Indonesians.
Local officials admitted that their fire fighting plans were reliant on the rain coming in October to extinguish the fires.
Dr Thamrin Nurdin, special assistant to the State Minister for Population and Environment admitted to The Straits Times that they had not called for help immediately because they expected rain to arrive.
From 1992 to 1993, several regional initiatives were announced by Asean to monitor and combat the haze.
For example, in 1992, the Asean Working Group on Transboundary Pollution announced that a coordinated effort to detect and fight forest fires would be formulated.
This regional cooperation however did not stop the next big haze to hit the region in 1994, when Singapore was covered in smog from August to October.
In September 1997, a state of emergency was declared in Sarawak, Malaysia as the Air Pollutant Index passed the 650 mark, well above the hazardous level of 301.
The weather phenomenon El Nino was blamed for exacerbating the problem.
"The freak weather phenomenon (El Nino) is partly to blame. We are not late in anticipating the problem. It's a natural disaster which no one could have prevented." - Indonesian Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare, Mr Azwar Anas.
Once again a regional plan was announced in December 1997.
The Asean Regional Haze Action Plan focused on three areas: Preventive measures, monitoring and strengthening land and forest fire fighting capability.
Despite constant talk among regional partners, the haze continued to be make an appearance through the decade.
Satellite photo of the haze by the Meteorological Service showing where the haze was going to occur. PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES
Authorities were able predict when hazy days were going to occur thanks to the use of satellite photos.
At a speech to mark International Earth Day in April 2006, then Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said that he was ashamed that Indonesia was exporting the haze to their neighbouring countries.
But in Nov 2006, Indonesia's Industry Minister Fahmi Idris boycotted a joint steering committee between Singapore and Indonesia to protest Singapore's decision to table the haze issue at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in Oct 2006.
"I did not attend the meeting in protest at Singapore's step's to table the haze issue at UNGA, though previously Singapore has agreed to tackle the problem at Asean level."
Despite his protest, the meeting went ahead as planned.
Indonesia's prickliness over the haze issue is perhaps underlined by their current Vice-President Jusuf Kalla's comments in March 2015, saying that Indonesia does not need to apologise for the haze.
He went on to suggest that Singaporeans thank Indonesia for the nice air that we enjoy for 11 months of the year.
"They have suffered because of the haze for one month and they get upset," Vice-President Jusuf Kalla.
In 2013, the haze reached new heights in Singapore.
Front page of The New Paper the day after a record high PSI. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER
The 3-hour PSI reached a record 401 on Jun 21, 2013.
In the wake of that record haze, Singapore's Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources enacted the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act in 2014.
It gives regulators the legal right to prosecute those countries responsible for causing severe air pollution.
The law was recently used by the Singapore government to start legal action against five companies which they believe are the main culprits behind this year's haze.
The Singapore Flyer Observatory Wheel shrouded by haze in Singapore September 29, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS
The National Environment Agency served notice to Singapore-listed company Asia Pulp and Paper, requiring them to give information about their subsidiaries in Indonesia.
Meanwhile the Indonesians finally ratified the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act in 2014.
They also arrested seven corporate executives in connection with the illegal forest fires.
Will it give us clear skies?
Only time will tell.
Source: NewspaperSG, The Straits Times