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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Lockdowns, closures mean cleaner air in European cities

Jack Burton

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Lockdowns, closures mean cleaner air in European cities | The Thaiger
PHOTO: DevelopmentAid
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Lockdowns, travel restrictions and factory closures due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic are having some unexpected positive consequences. Satellite images show that cities around Europe, including Brussels, Paris, Madrid, Milan and Frankfurt, are showing a huge reduction in air pollution average levels of noxious nitrogen dioxide over compared with the same period last year.

New images, including heat maps, released by the European Space Agency and analysed by the nonprofit European Public Health Alliance, show the changing density of nitrogen dioxide, which can cause respiratory problems and cancer. (Weather events can influence air pollution, so the satellite pictures took a 20 day average and excluded readings where cloud cover reduced the quality of the data.)

In Madrid, average nitrogen dioxide levels decreased by 56% week-on-week after the Spanish government banned nonessential travel on March 14.

In abandoned Venice, dolphins were supposedly spotted in spotted in the city’s legendary canals, though this turned out to be “fake news.” The canal water, nonetheless, is clearer because of the huge decrease in boat traffic.

The EPHA says people living in polluted cities may be more at risk from the virus because prolonged exposure to bad air can weaken the immune system, making it harder to fight infection.

“That connection is very likely, but because the disease is new, it still has to be demonstrated.”

China also recorded a drop in air pollution in its major cities during February, when the government imposed draconian lockdown measures to contain the epidemic.

But in some regions of Poland, pollution levels remained high during the period despite its lockdown, possibly due to the prevalence of coal based heating. EEA data show that air pollution causes around 400,000 premature deaths each year in Europe.

SOURCES: Thai PBS World |Reuters

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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Air Pollution

Government claims they’re serious about northern air pollution

Jack Burton

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Government claims they’re serious about northern air pollution | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai PBS World

Thailand’s northern provinces, particularly Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, suffer mightily during the annual plantation burning season, infamously known as “smoky season,” when farmers there and in neighbouring Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia burn their fields in preparation for the next harvest. The season lasts from January to April, and during that time Chiang Mai often rates as having the worst air quality in the world. But now the government says it’s taking air pollution seriously and aims to clean up the North.

Chiang Mai’s air quality problems have been a consistent issue, since the northern Thai city was declared ‘most polluted city in the world’ on March 10, according AirVisual.com. The city has ‘won’ the accolade on more than 10 days this year. Adding to the problem, in March and April this year were the forest fires challenging local authorities in the mountains around the city.

Government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat expressed gratitude to the Chiang Mai Breath Council for its concern on smog in the North and gave assurances the government is earnest about solving the problem. Responding to the council’s demand for successful resolution she said the council makes a huge contribution by monitoring air pollution for the sake of public health.

“The government has tried to solve the problem and assigned local authorities to implement relevant measures. It is never distracted from the effort, despite the coronavirus pandemic.”

“The government is grateful for the Chiang Mai Breath Council’s campaigns for clean air. However, the problem cannot be solved by a single organisation. All parties must join forces. I believe that solutions will improve from now on.”

The government spokeswoman also said that Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwon would visit Chiang Mai province today to follow up on smog solutions.

“The government understands that it may not be impossible for provincial and regional parties to solve the issue by themselves. We believe that if all parties join hands and watch out for wildfires, which are at the root of the problem and cause of the fine dust, air pollution will be relieved eventually.”

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Chiang Mai

The end of the annual crop-burning season – Chiang Mai gets some fresh air

The Thaiger

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The end of the annual crop-burning season – Chiang Mai gets some fresh air | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Xanadu Pub and Bar

As the annual crop season in north Thailand comes to an end the only good side-effect of the whole Covid-19 outbreak is a drop in the number of fires and plantation burning activity in the past few months.

As a result, Chiang Mai’s Air Quality has experienced significant improvements, according to aqicn.org.

The website data shows that Chiang Mai air quality index reported PM2.5 levels of less than 100 particles per cubic metre for more than two weeks. 50 AQI is the general safety standard in Thailand (and 25 for the World Health Organisation upper limit of safe air quality. On some days in the middle of the highest readings the AQI reached about 500!

The AQI is a standard that indicates the level of air pollution.

• Level 0-50 means good air quality

• 51-100 means moderate quality

• 101-105 will affect sensitive groups

• 151-200 is slightly harmful to health

• 201-300 is highly harmful

• 301-500 means extremely dangerousThe end of the annual crop-burning season - Chiang Mai gets some fresh air | News by The Thaiger
For several days in the past two weeks, Chiang Mai’s air quality index has seen a decrease of more 50%, compared to the AQI levels at the same time in 2019. For two days in a row the northern city scored dubious distinction of having the world’s worst air quality.

April 30

2019 – Air Quality Index of 152 | 2020 – Air Quality Index of 57

May 4

2019 – Air Quality Index of 158 | 2020 – Air Quality Index of 56

May 12

2019 – Air Quality Index of 129 | 2020 – Air Quality Index of 69

Smog, smoke and haze have been a widespread public health problem in North & Central Thailand for over a decade. It typically occurs from January to April, but peaks in March as very dry conditions intensify the forest fires. It’s exacerbated by farmers who burn plantation waste to clear land for the next harvest season.

SOURCE: Samui Times

The end of the annual crop-burning season - Chiang Mai gets some fresh air | News by The Thaiger

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Bangkok, before and after. A birds-eye view.

The Thaiger

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Bangkok, before and after. A birds-eye view. | The Thaiger

Content creator Manit Monsur, a certified drone pilot, has taken to the skies of Bangkok giving us a unique insight into the sights, sounds and daily life of the Big Mango, before and now. Travel restrictions and business closures have severely impacted on the city’s ability to function. One of the biggest changes, he notes, is the clear skies above one of Asia’s busiest cities.

“Enjoy the empty Bangkok. Despite of the impact on the economy and lifestyle, Covid-19 is really the only thing that is helping reduce the pollution caused by big cities like Bangkok. Now that Bangkok and other big cities in the world sleeps, nature can finally recover from all the damage we human have made over the past hundreds and thousands of years.”

In his second video in the series “Bangkok Lockdown” Manit checks out more of the street life during the current city ‘lockdown’.

“So this week I went out again and shot more footages of the Central Bangkok. I went to Siam Paragon and Chong Nonsi Bridge this time. Watch the vlog for more information and enjoy the empty Bangkok. Despite of the impact on the economy and lifestyle, Covid-19 is really the only thing that is helping reduce the pollution caused by big cities like Bangkok.”

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