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Air Pollution

Bangkok haze and smog continues over the weekend

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Bangkok haze and smog continues over the weekend | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Bangkok's smog, not going to get better over the weekend
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There is unlikely to be much respite of the air pollution shrouding Greater Bangkok this weekend. And the PM is urging people to inform a hotline of any vehicles belching smoke and fumes into the Bangkok sky.

The Pollution Control Department says the smog, which saw just about all of the 50 air quality stations hitting levels of PM2.5 over ’50’ yesterday (the upper limit for safe pollution levels as determined as ’25’ by the World Health Organisation), will continue over the weekend.

There were six “code-red” stations as of 7am yesterday morningand the figure rose to 10 “code-red” stations as of noon. Today, the situation has improved a bit but high temperatures and light winds persist, although many factories are closed today.

Bangkok haze and smog continues over the weekend | News by The Thaiger

GRAPHIC: Air quality measurements this morning at 11am – https://www.airvisual.com

The Thai safety standard is 50mcg – which is double the World Health Organisation-recommended cap of 25mcg.

Bangkok haze and smog continues over the weekend | News by The Thaiger

Air Visual is a reliable global air pollution website. Yesterday it listed Bangkok among the world’s top 10 cities with the worst air.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration governor Aswin Kwanmuang posted yesterday that the PM2.5 levels around the city could affect people’s health and urged everyone, “especially the elderly and small children as well as those with chronic ailments such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, to wear face masks and refrain from outdoor activities this period”.

The city’s utilities were implementing measures to curb the PM2.5 dust, mostly caused by vehicle exhaust emissions, outdoor burning, construction dust and ifactories, and was dispatching health officials to provide protection guidelines in affected communities.

Many schools were celebrating National Children’s Day (which is actually today), so the City’s governor instructed the district offices with high PM2.5 levels to tell schools to suspend outdoor activities.

Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha has posted on his social media page… “since the PM2.5 levels were high, police should be strict about stopping vehicles emitting black exhaust smoke.”

“These law-violators would be put on a watch list for extra scrutiny when their vehicles went through mandatory inspection prior to the renewal of road tax and car license.

The PM is urging everyone to alert authorities about vehicles emitting dangerous fumes by calling the hotline 1584.

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Air Pollution

Thailand’s PM2.5 micron elephant in the room – OPINION

Tim Newton

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Thailand’s PM2.5 micron elephant in the room – OPINION | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Air pollution problem solved! This morning at Suvarnabhumi Airport - The Nation

It’s cars, it’s the polluting buses, it’s people burning too many incense sticks. Every year it’s the same culprits in Bangkok, people driving their cars too much, polluting factories and old buses belching black smoke. All those things contribute to city pollution but are far from the main problem.

So the government, reactive as usual, rolls out its PR machine and invites the media to take photos of water cannons blasting thousands of litres of valuable water into the sky, doing precisely NOTHING to address the air pollution problem, beyond a short-term, extremely local solution. Very local indeed, and probably pleasing the assembled press as they enjoy a bit of overspray cooling them down. For the bigger air pollution problem, no help at all.

Even today the Bangkok media scrum was summoned to Suvarnabhumi Airport to get the story of the local airport solution where they’ve deployed water cannons that blast 144,000 litres of water per day about 50 metres into the air above the one of the airport’s ring roads.

“The trucks will be deployed at 10am, 11am, 1.30pm and 2.30pm at the duty-free zone and along the Suvarnabhumi 2 Road, as these areas have high numbers of trucks and other vehicles passing through during weekdays.”

We kid you not, there appears to some officials who actually think this grotesque waste of water is achieving something… anything, beyond a woefully useless media stunt.

“The airport has enforced pollution control regulations on all public vehicles running in theairport areas, which include taxis, shuttle buses, public buses, public vans and coaches. These vehicles were told to turn off the engine while waiting for passengers and make sure to have their vehicle condition checked regularly.”

All this obfuscation from officials and the government is completely ignoring the PM2.5 micron “elephant in the room”. Indeed, the oft-used “PM2.5 micron” word salad is just another way of confusing the public and shifting the narrative.

It’s smoke, smog, haze, air pollution. And most of it is coming from fires deliberately lit by farmers who are providing crops for Thai multi-nationals, mostly corn, rice and sugar. The cheapest way to clear the land for the next crop is burning it to the ground. The machinery to complete that task without burning is expensive. Of course it’s all about cutting costs, so lighting a fire and sending smoke into Thailand’s skies is much easier… f**k the environment and the millions of people that are affected by the months of smoke-filled air.

Even the Pollution Control Department (an oxymoron indeed!) and its daily missives about the air pollution problem completely avoid any discussion about the forest and plantation fires, burning mainly in central and northern Thailand, and over the border in Myanmar. The northerly and north-easterly airstream at this time of the year casually wafts the offending smoke south, affecting the capital and its 10 million residents.

Here’s today’s active fires in and around Thailand, clearly identified by NASA satellites with constant updates. You can see active fires in Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar, but there is a big concentration in central, northern and north-eastern Thailand.

Thailand's PM2.5 micron elephant in the room - OPINION | News by The Thaiger

There’s the evidence of where the smoke is coming from. Check out the link HERE. Pollution Control Department officials are able to click on the link too.

Or let’s go to the Air Visual map which lists the air quality around the country (or the world) any time of the day. It also lists some of the key fires burning at the time.

Thailand's PM2.5 micron elephant in the room - OPINION | News by The Thaiger

The information from Air Visual clearly shows the link between areas of poor air quality and the fires that are burning, also linked to the direction of the wind.

Bangkok’s slightly improved air quality readings today have nothing to do with the water cannons blasting water into the sky at Suvarnabhumi and everything to do with changed, favourable wind conditions. If the problem was ‘traffic’ then Bangkok, a city of some 10 million people, would always have worse air quality than all the provincial air quality measurement stations.

At some stage the Thai government and public servants will be forced to bite the bullet and admit that the annual pollution problem is what it is – a cover up to protect large and powerful multi-nationals and their agricultural pursuits.

Now that Thai celebrities and some concerned residents are starting to see through the mist and fog of the misleading PR, and posting these air quality maps, their own experiences, and lack of confidence in the officials to address the problem, there is hope that public shaming might finally bring about some honesty and long-term measures to face the PM2.5 micron elephant in the room.

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Air Pollution

Nearly 300,000 Bangkok school students stay at home today as a measure to reduce air pollution

The Thaiger

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Nearly 300,000 Bangkok school students stay at home today as a measure to reduce air pollution | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Most of Bangkok's public schools closed today - Getty Images

Nearly 300,000 students from 437 schools around Bangkok are having the day off after the Bangkok governor announced they could stay home and avoid the city’s smog. Ironically, today’s city air pollution has reduced to its lowest level in a week.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration suspended classes at 437 public schools for one day and introduced staggered working hours for city public servants from today, “as airborne PM2.5 dust and smoke is forecast to remain excessive”.

Pongsakorn Kwanmuang, a BMA spokesperson, says the measures are part of city hall’s “four-point plan to cope with worsening air pollution in Bangkok”. He says that officials working at district offices will report to work as normal, adding that the staggered working hours will be ended when pollution has eased. How the staggering of work hours would relieve the pollution problem was not outlined by the spokesperson.

“The class closure, affecting over 280,000 students, will reduce the number of cars on Bangkok’s streets and help ease PM2.5 problem.”

City Hall is also distributing 450,000 free face masks to people in Bangkok.

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Air Pollution

Thai PM mulls private car ban in pollution-stricken areas

Greeley Pulitzer

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Thai PM mulls private car ban in pollution-stricken areas | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The sun sets in Bangkok shrouded by thick smog - Nathaphol Lovakit

“Bangkok’s governor has also signed an order yesterday to close 437 schools in in the city today due to a forecast of higher pollution levels.”

The government is considering a ban on private car use in areas affected by hazardous levels of air pollution. The harsh proposal was unveiled Tuesday by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha after a cabinet meeting in Narathiwat. The PM said only public transport services would be allowed to use the roads during a ban.

“Is that what we want? Do we really have to go that far?”

The severe measure would be employed on a case by case basis to avoid unnecessarily negative impact.

The PM says the government is ready to step in with such measures when ultra-fine PM2.5 dust particles in the air exceed 100 micrograms per cubic metre, twice the national so-called safe limit of ’50’. (PM2.5 is particulate matter 2.5 micrometres or less in diameter suspended in the air)

“If the dust levels rise to more than 100 micrograms, the government will take over all the work and everyone will be affected.”

The PM was responding to questions about calls for tougher measures to deal with sources of the problem and accusations that his government hasn’t done enough. According to the Prime Minister, vehicle exhausts are the primary source of PM2.5, followed by biomass burning and industrial emissions. The specific burins of sugarcane plantations, known to be the largest single cause of the smoke problems, wasn’t addressed.

In areas where the PM2.5 levels rise to between 75 and 100 micrograms per cubic metre, the provincial governor will implement more stringent measures like prohibiting heavy trucks from entering certain areas of the province at certain times.

And if PM2.5 levels go above 100 micrograms the government will step in and may implement even more stringent rules, “which would affect everyone,” according to the PM.

How these measures would play out in reality, and how motorists would be warned of the restrictions wasn’t explained.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa, meanwhile, hinted that if measures against lorries prove inadequate, private cars could be targeted next.

“It has been found that 72% of the PM2.5 dust particles come from traffic emissions.”

The source of the Minister’s claim wasn’t announced at the time he made the statement.

Among the short-term measures to be implemented next in Bangkok is a ban on heavy trucks from entering certain parts of the city on alternate days, possibly in February only.

Bangkok’s governor has also signed an order yesterday to close 437 schools in in the city today due to a forecast of higher pollution levels.

SOURCE: TheBangkok Post | Air Visual

Thai PM mulls private car ban in pollution-stricken areas | News by The Thaiger

GRAPHIC: Air quality has improved around parts of the capital today whilst the fires to the north east and north west are clearly displayed – Air Quality

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