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

“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.

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’.

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.

Maps courtesy of AirVisual

This post was last modified on February 2, 2020 9:48 am

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