Northern haze ‘must be on national agenda’
By Chularat Saengpassa
A bird’seye view from Phra That Khao Noi Temple in Nan’s Muang district reveals smog shrouding the northern province.
CALLS FOR the government to make tackling the problem of serious air pollution part of the national agenda are getting louder.
The North has been struggling with severe air pollution for several months now, as outdoor fires are increasing the amount of airborne dust particles.
Prolonged exposure to fine dust particles such as PM2.5 – particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter – is linked to several health problems including strokes and heart failures. As of press time yesterday, the amount of PM2.5 in the North exceeded the safe limit of 50 micrograms (mcg) per cubic metre of air.
“Smog is a threat to people’s health,” said Sonthi Kotchawat, an independent environmental health expert.
He added that the region has been struggling with this dust problem for a long time now, but relevant parties have simply waited for nature – such as wind and rain – to blow away the dangerous dust particles.
“We can’t let northerners struggle with smog every year because their health is in grave danger,” Sonthi said, demanding that the authorities issue clear action plans to address the problem. He also emphasised that the government actively participate in dealing with the problem instead of leaving the job to local authorities.
For instance, he said, Chiang Rai – which had the worst air pollution in the nation yesterday – suffered mainly from fires in neighbouring countries.
“Don’t rely on provincial authorities to address this problem. The government needs to take action because the smog has worsened over time,” Sonthi said.
Records show that there were 6,080 hotspots in Myanmar and 3,030 in Laos on Wednesday. Both countries border Thailand in the North.
Although the Asean Transboundary Haze-Fee Roadmap is in place, fires from Thailand’s neighbours have continued polluting the air.
Meanwhile, Chiang Mai has been topping the global list of the world’s most polluted city for a few hours every day since Tuesday. As of 1.49pm yesterday, it was the most polluted city. It’s Air Quality Index stood at 293, a far cry from the safe limit of 100.
The list of the world’s most polluted cities is compiled by AirVisual.com, which monitors air quality across the world.
The Pollution Control Department wrote to Myanmar on Monday asking for help with the smog, but there has been no satisfactory result so far.
In Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district, which is next to Myanmar, the PM2.5 level hovered around 208mcg per cubic metre of air as of noon yesterday and its AQI stood at a shocking 318 – a threat even to healthy people.
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