Malaysia, Singapore grapple with prolonged dry spell
Singapore and Malaysia are grappling with some of the driest weather they have ever seen, forcing the tiny city-state to ramp up supplies of recycled water while its neighbor rations reserves amid disruptions to farming and fisheries.
Singapore, which experiences tropical downpours on most days, suffered its longest dry spell on record between Jan. 13 and Feb. 8 and has had little rain since.
Shares in Hyflux Ltd, which operates desalination and water recycling operations in Singapore, have risen 3.5 pct over the past month.
In peninsular Malaysia, 15 areas have not had rainfall in more than 20 days, with some of them dry for more than a month, according to the Malaysian Meteorological Department. The dry weather is expected to run for another two weeks.
The Indonesian province of Riau has also been hit, with parts of the region wreathed in smog, usually caused by farmers setting fires to illegally clear land. Poor visibility has disrupted flights to and from the airport in Pekanbaru.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was due to discuss the drought at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday that would decide whether to declare a national emergency, according to state news agency Bernama.
On Wednesday, media said the Malaysian state of Selangor had won approval from the federal government to take over four water firms, with the dry spell forcing an end to a five-year feud over control of water resources.
The state will pay the firms, which include builder Gamuda and water services company Puncak Niaga, 9.65 billion ringgit ($2.94 billion) to their owners in compensation.
While some dry weather is expected at this time of year, the abnormal lack of rain is raising concern about the pace of climate change.
"The concern is that these uncommon weather events may be happening more frequently sooner rather than later," said National University of Singapore researcher Winston Chow.
Palm Oil Prices Hit
Malaysia is the world's second-largest producer of palm oil and planters say dry weather lasting more than two months can hurt yields six months to two years down the line, affecting output and fuelling benchmark Kuala Lumpur prices.
Concern the weather will hurt production has helped push up palm oil prices about 8 percent in February, setting the market on track for its biggest monthly gain in four months.
The lack of rain is also believed to have caused extensive damage to the rice crop.
In Singapore, the dry weather is being blamed in part for the death of fish stocks at several offshore farms. About 160 tonnes of fish have died in recent weeks because of a lack of oxygen in the water.
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