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Air Pollution

Hazy days and Sundays – Bangkok has fifth highest air pollution in the world

The Thaiger

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Hazy days and Sundays – Bangkok has fifth highest air pollution in the world | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Yuk! The smog returns, on a Sunday morning - Thai PBS World
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“Unhealthy”. That about sums up the air Bangkokians are breathing this morning, a situation almost completely avoidable but allowed to continue by the Thai Government. Bangkok is in bad company today with other polluted cities in Asia – Lahore, Hanoi, Delhi and Dhaka – as the fifth most polluted city in the world, a headline the Thai Government would prefer to avoid.

Hazy days and Sundays - Bangkok has fifth highest air pollution in the world | News by The Thaiger

Right around the capital this morning, a day of the quietest traffic, and stretching around the central Thailand region and down to Pattaya, the smoke and haze caused by the plantation burn-offs is palpable as people try and find some respite from the poor air quality.

The northern airflows are blowing all the smoke from the field fires lit by farmers back into the city today. The city, already in a mild panic over the Coronavirus cases in Thailand, is short on masks and probably even shorted on patience as the Thai Government continues to put lives at risk by doing little about solving the smog crisis.

Let’s be clear, this has almost nothing to do with old buses and factories, and burning incense sticks (all which have been blamed in the past), and EVERYTHING to do with the annual burn-off season, mostly sugar cane, corn and rice fields.

Even the sugar industry, the source of much of the pollution, has been pro-active enough to offer solutions to encourage, or force, farmers into harvesting the crops and using machinery to prepare the paddocks for the next crops, instead of resorting to the cheap solution of burning.

Sugar factories are campaigning to cut and harvest raw sugarcane, instead of boring it first, for processing. The conglomerates are recommending that the government offer funding at low interest rates to farmers to buy harvesters as the prices of the equipment are quite high (6-12 million baht).

The Thaiger has published countless articles over the past few years about the pollution problem HERE, HERE and HERE. There’s even been a ‘crackdown’ on the plantation fires with police being given the power to prosecute farmers who continue to light the fires.

“National Police chief Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda has ordered deputy chief Pol General Suwat Jaengyodsuk to be the central administrator of these measures. They are to be enforced at traffic routes, industrial factories, construction sites and burnt crop fields where the PM2.5 comes from nationwide.”

But here we are, on a Sunday, in one of the world’s most visited cities by tourists from around the world, enveloped in choking pollution that measures up to 4 times the Thai Government’s own classification of a safe upper limit. And up to 8 times what the World Health Organisation deems as ‘safe’.

Hazy days and Sundays - Bangkok has fifth highest air pollution in the world | News by The Thaiger

If the map readings of Unhealthy and Very Unhealthy aren’t enough to scare a Thai Government public servant into action this morning, perhaps they should just look out of their windows at the pall of smoke descending on the city. Or perhaps they should go and greet some arriving visitors at the country’s largest international port, Suvarnabhumi Airport, where this morning’s reading is 205 microns (of 2.5 micron particulate per cubic metre of air).

Welcome to Bangkok.

PS. If the police need any help to find where the fires are burning, 1) look for the smoke or 2) log onto the NASA satellite fire map HERE (screenshot below) for some live data about fires burning around Thailand. Hundreds and hundreds of fires.

Hazy days and Sundays - Bangkok has fifth highest air pollution in the world | News by The Thaiger

Hazy days and Sundays - Bangkok has fifth highest air pollution in the world | News by The Thaiger

Maps courtesy of AirVisual

Hazy days and Sundays - Bangkok has fifth highest air pollution in the world | News by The Thaiger

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Air Pollution

Air purifiers to be added to the top of Bangkok buses. Really…

The Thaiger

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Air purifiers to be added to the top of Bangkok buses. Really… | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The air-pollution-busters being installed on Bangkok bus tops - The Nation

“It is like a single dead pixel on your phone, hardly noticeable”

Air purifiers sitting on tops of buses. Apparently this is another solution for Bangkok’s air pollution problems. Sounds like the people selling the mobile bus-top air purifiers have a very convincing sales person!

But Bangkok’s Mass Transit Authority director Surachai Eamvachirasakul says the department will go ahead with plans to install the air purifiers on top of Bangkok’s public buses. The promise is that it will reduce dust pollution. The air-filtration systems which will be installed on top of some of the state-operated buses are said to be capable of sucking in polluted air and blowing out clear air behind it. The director cited several test runs of the system as “evidence”.

“The device is capable of filtering 10,000 cubic metres of air per one trip. Scientific research indicated that an adult would breathe in an average 0.5 cubic metres per hour, so a bus would be able to provide clear air to more than 20,000 people on the road.”

This fuzzy maths shows an appalling ignorance of the larger pollution problem, most of which comes from plantation fires to the north of the capital – little to do with any local city contributions.

Even Chulalongkorn University biologist Jessada Denduangboripant says the plan “will have a near-zero impact on the PM2.5 dust particles”. Near zero. That’s a much closer estimate of the effectiveness of strapping air purifiers to the tops of the buses. Better still, don’t run the polluting old diesel buses in the first place which may cause more pollution per kilometre than the air purifiers could ever ‘filter’.

“If it is working as claimed, I believe it will only be capable of cleansing just a pixel of Bangkok,” Jessada said to Khaosod English.

Another scientist opined that the effectiveness of the air purifiers “would be trivial at best”, given the amount of air in the capital city against what the machines could process.

Matipon Tangmatitham, a researcher at the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand got out his calculator.

“Based on the area of Bangkok and the height of dust particles from the ground, it gives out 1.568E+12 cubic metres of air that needed to be filtered. But the scheme would only produce 20,000 cubic meters of clean air, even when all the 500 buses are on the road.”

(And how much pollution is caused by the 500 buses cruising around the city?)

But BMTA director Surachai hit back at the scientists with a test result he gathered, which compares PM2.5 level before entering the device at 48-52 AQI with 1-5 AQI after passing through the device.

In truth, the effectiveness of the system would be almost impossible to calculate on a city-wide situation. A few extra kilometres of wind strength from the north on a day of burn-offs in the north would blow the pollution readings off the scale, completely obliterating any tiny improvements made in the immediate vicinity of the passing bus.

SOURCE: Khaosod English

Air purifiers to be added to the top of Bangkok buses. Really... | News by The ThaigerAir purifiers to be added to the top of Bangkok buses. Really... | News by The Thaiger

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Air Pollution

Chiang Mai blanketed in smoke as fires burn around the province

The Thaiger

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Chiang Mai blanketed in smoke as fires burn around the province | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Downtown Chiang Mai this morning. Where's the blue sky gone? - Neo

It’s smoggy, smokey and generally unpleasant in northern Thailand today. But don’t take our word for it, look up to the skies around Chiang Mai or check the copious amounts of graphic evidence, freely available, about the seriousness of the fires, almost all deliberately lit, around the region.

“It’s been bad all morning and there’s a noticeable smell of smoke in the air now. I am sure it is not good for us”

The manager of a flower shop contacted The Thaiger and sent us a few photos of the Chiang Mai skies.

“We are used to seeing people walk around with face masks because of the coronavirus threat but now most of us are worried about the air pollution.”

Plantation burn-offs are a seasonal problem where the owners of rice and sugarcane crops, and other crops, burn the residual foliage and plants in preparation for the next crop. It’s the cheapest option for farmers. Despite threats and government policy, little is preventing the practice from continuing.

Read our editorial about the ‘smoke screen’ surrounding the fires and the air pollution problem HERE.

Chiang Mai blanketed in smoke as fires burn around the province | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: Global Forest Watch

Whilst the air visual air pollution mapping officially registers Chiang Mai’s air quality at 178 this morning (that’s 178 particles of 2.5micron particulate per cubic metre), there are parts of the province registering way up into the 200s today, officially ‘Very Unhealthy’. Indeed Chiang Mai is today’s 9th most polluted city in the world, in the same company as cities like Dhaka, Delhi, Kathmandu and Mumbai.

Chiang Mai blanketed in smoke as fires burn around the province | News by The Thaiger

Chiang Mai blanketed in smoke as fires burn around the province | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: Air Visual

Read more about the seriousness of Chiang Mai’s choking smoke today HERE.

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Air Pollution

Bangkok halts construction of electric rail and highrises for 3 days

Greeley Pulitzer

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Bangkok halts construction of electric rail and highrises for 3 days | The Thaiger
PHOTO: A thick haze hangs over Bangkok - Chiang Rai Times

 

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration today ordered a 3 day suspension of the construction of seven electric train lines, highrise buildings and roads throughout Bangkok, in order to reduce PM2.5 pollution.

The Pollution Control Department reported this morning that 39 areas in Bangkok and four in its suburbs were found to have high levels of PM2.5 particles, measured to be between 37 and 76 microns per cubic metre, exceeding Thailand’s 50 micron safety threshold.

Lat Phrao Soi 95 in Wang Thong Lang district, Tambon Khlong Koom in Bung Koom district were the worst affected, with 76 microns, followed by 72 microns in Tambon Thung Song Hong in Laksi district.

City Hall’s spokesman Pongsakorn Kwanmuang said yesterday that high atmospheric pressure, compounded by poor air circulation, is preventing fine particles from dispersing, thus the need to suspend construction of major projects.

He said that activities not directly related to construction, such as interior decoration of highrise buildings, can continue, and that the city’s administration is coordinating with the Industrial Works Department to send inspectors to factories in and around Bangkok to check for excessive smoke discharge.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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