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Air Pollution

Chiang Mai chokes as fires rage in the north of Thailand

Jack Burton

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Chiang Mai chokes as fires rage in the north of Thailand | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thailand Today
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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.

Chiang Mai chokes as fires rage in the north of Thailand | News by The Thaiger

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 Post

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Jack Burton is a writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. He attended the Henry Grady School of Journalism and 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.

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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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