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.
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.
SOURCE: Air Visual
Read more about the seriousness of Chiang Mai’s choking smoke today HERE.Keep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.
Lockdowns, closures mean cleaner air in European cities
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.Facebook page.
Chiang Mai chokes as fires rage in the north of Thailand
Northern Thailand is choking under a toxic shroud and it’s not getting any better. Air pollution across the upper North remains “at critical levels,” in many areas, including some of the main population centres. Authorities are monitoring almost 400 active hotspots in Chiang Mai alone yesterday.
The air quality didn’t improve this morning, with IQAir recording “very unhealthy” air quality and hazardous PM2.5 dust levels at around 200 in parts of Chiang Mai and up to 270 around Chiang Rai today (below).
Thailand’s official safe level is 50: the World Health Organisation sets it at 25. Though it’s improved somewhat during the day, Chiang Mai once again rated world’s worst for air quality.
According a 2019 report, PM2.5 caused 23,800 premature deaths in Thailand in 2017.
Government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat says fires have definitely affected air quality, with 17 provinces in the North reporting an increase in levels of PM2.5 pollutants yesterday. Only two, Nakhon Sawan and Uthai Thani in the north-east reported PM2.5 readings below the Pollution Control Department’s “safe” threshold.
Chiang Dao district in Chiang Mai reported the highest PM2.5 reading in the North yesterday at 360.
Narumon says the worsening pollution is due to a combination of factors which include arson, drought and wind patterns which trap pollutants right over Thailand. Others say agribusiness, with its annual plantation field burnings, continues to exacerbate the problem.
According to satellite data, on Saturday there were 3,809 hotspots in Thailand, 5,061 in Laos and 10,061 in Myanmar. As of yesterday, 398 hotspots, nearly 10% of the country’s total, were found in Chiang Mai.
Most of the blazes were related to a continuing bushfire in Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, which suddenly raged out of control late on Saturday after burning for about a week.
SOURCE: Bangkok PostKeep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.
Northern Thailand’s air pollution reaches hazardous levels
Air quality in the north of Thailand is actually ‘hazardous’ today, as bushfires in Chiang Mai’s Doi Suthep-Pui National Park have caused air quality to become nearly 20 times higher than Thailand’s already lax “safe” limit of ’50’. PM2.5, (dust particulate matter with diameter of 2.5 microns or lower), rose to 925 micrograms per cubic metre in some locations yesterday. It has dropped this morning but still remains ‘hazardous’ in many locations around the region.
Due to the Covid-19 coronavirusoutbreak, all national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and other protected areas in Thailand are closed until further notice. Some tourist destinations such as the Similan Islands and Surin Islands are within national parks and are also closed.
The bushfires in the parks and crop burning, in plantations and farms in the region and in neighbouring countries, has pushed air pollution readings in Chiang Mai and other provinces in the region up to nearly 1,000 micrograms for short periods, specifically near the areas of the fires.
Not helping the situation is a week of temperatures around 40C every day (with more on the way), and no rain (the temperatures are from stations in the city area, not in the mountains surrounding the main town). The fire at the national park near Chiang Mai also poses dangers to residents as it has raged near communities in and many landmarks, such as temples.
Hundreds of officials and soldiers have been called in to fight blazes over the past week. Helicopters have dropped water to control one fire that’s been raging since Wednesday evening around the Doi Suthep area, north west of Chiang Mai city, in the Doi Suthep Pui National Park.
“They’ve spent more than 14 hours a day trying to being the blaze under control.”
Local officials say the massive fire has now been “brought under control,” but the air pollution persists with more smog from plantation fires burning in the area and to the north in neighbouring Myanmar.
PM Prayut Chan-o-cha has expressed concern over massive damage caused by the fire, primarily for the health of the elderly and children. He’s asked them to avoid going outside because of the smoke and poor air quality.
Chiang Mai isn’t the only northern province plagued with air quality issues. The PM2.5 dust index also revealed severely unhealthy levels of air quality in Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son and Nan provinces.
The government says it’s working with Myanmar officials to address the issue.
Airvisual.com (Sunday morning 9am – Thai Time)
SOURCE: Chiang Rai TimesKeep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.
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