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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
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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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Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for nearly 40 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program, presented 3,900 radio news bulletins in Thailand alone, hosted 450 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and is now the General Manager and writer for The Thaiger. He's reported for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue.

Air Pollution

Economic concerns put Bangkok’s ban on 10-wheel trucks on hold

Maya Taylor

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Economic concerns put Bangkok’s ban on 10-wheel trucks on hold | The Thaiger
PHOTO: www.newsbeezer.com

Officials in Bangkok have decided to delay a proposed ban on 10 wheel trucks in light of the current economic challenges affecting the transportation and industrial sectors. The proposed ban was aimed at reducing PM2.5 air pollution in the capital and was expected to come into force from December 1 – 28.

Particulates – also known as atmospheric aerosol particles, atmospheric particulate matter, particulate matter (PM), or suspended particulate matter (SPM) – are microscopic particles of solid or liquid matter suspended in the air – Wikpedia

PM2.5 refers to particulate matter (solid and liquid particles) with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres that remain suspended in the air for longer. They can be the result of burning fuel and are the primary cause of smog.

Commenting on the decision to delay the ban indefinitely, Deputy National Police chief Damrongsak Kittipraphas says the relevant authorities agreed the timing is not right.

“The police have discussed with related agencies, including the Department of Industrial Promotion, Pollution Control Department, the Thai Chamber of Commerce and the Public Transport Association, and agreed to postpone the rule indefinitely. The members at the meeting were concerned that the rule could obstruct the operation of the industrial and transportation sectors that are starting to recover from the economic contraction. Therefore, the related agencies promised to study the issue thoroughly, as well as explore other options to prevent and reduce PM2.5 air pollution in Bangkok.”

However, Damrongsak says that from December 1, authorities in the capital will be clamping down on large polluting vehicles, adding that those emitting clouds of black smoke are one of the biggest contributors to air pollution.

“We will send officers to perform random checks at bus terminals and truck operation centres. The inspection will be recorded via video camera to ensure transparency of police work.”

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Thailand

New national haze forecast website gives 3 day forecasts at 70% accuracy rate

The Thaiger

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New national haze forecast website gives 3 day forecasts at 70% accuracy rate | The Thaiger

Thailand is getting a new national haze forecasting website that is capable of giving a 3 day forecast at a 70% accuracy rate. The Pollution Control Department is unveiling the “Mekong Air Quality Explorer” platform, which was named after the area is was originally designed to monitor. The PCD teamed with the USAID and NASA, the latter of which has permitted the use of its data from its GEOS-5 satellite-which ranks as one of the world’s most accurate parameters for gauging atmospheric levels of PM 2.5, black carbon and nitrous oxide.

Aekkapol Aekakkarararungroj, the project chief, helped develop the new model, which came as part of ongoing efforts to capture the overall picture in the Mekong Region, which has been strongly affected by the burning season in northern Thailand.

“From now on, anyone can access the haze website to check the PM2.5 situation in advance and the department will use the information to better implement measures to limit the impact of air pollution on people’s health and the local environment.”

Aekkapol says the forecasting website will also provide detailed nationwide air quality data right down to the district level, as it has begun importing air quality and PM data from its air monitoring stations in Bangkok and surrounding areas. Additionally, it is using data from 14 other provinces nationwide.

Today, PM2.5 levels are forecasted to be moderate with a small rise to be seen tomorrow in Bangkok, Samut Prakan, Nakhon Pathum, Samut Sakhon and Nonthaburi provinces. Aekkapol says people living in these areas should expect guidance from local authorities on the best steps to take to minimise their exposure.

Thailand’s PCD Director-General Attapol Charoenchansa says that further development is underway to enable an even more precise estimates, right to the sub-districts and individual highways.

SOURCE: Chiang Rai Times

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Air Pollution

Residents express health concerns as smog engulfs Pattaya

Maya Taylor

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Residents express health concerns as smog engulfs Pattaya | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Pattaya News

Pattaya residents have expressed concern over air pollution, as the eastern coastal city finds itself engulfed in smog. The Pattaya News reports that the deterioration in air quality has been ongoing for a number of days, with a cloud of haze obscuring the bay and neighbouring islands.

Residents are advised to wear masks when outside and to limit outdoor exercise, according to officials, who have so far not clarified what the cause of the pollution might be. It comes as mass sugar cane burning is taking place in farming communities around the country, an activity that has caused air pollution problems in the past. While sugar cane burning is technically illegal, residents say the law is not strongly enforced, resulting in an annual rise in air pollution levels.

Residents express health concerns as smog engulfs Pattaya | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: The Pattaya News

Netizens are urging the government to do more to prosecute farmers and large companies found indulging in the practice. They are also calling on sugar cane customers to reject burnt produce, in the hope it will force producers to use cleaner harvesting methods.

In the past, officials have pointed to tourist traffic, including airplanes, boats, and buses, as being a possible cause of the pollution. However, with air quality continuing to deteriorate, despite the current significant decline in air travel and tourist numbers, that hypothesis seems unlikely.

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

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