Bangkok residents warned of escalating air pollution, urged to work remotely

Photo by @jamboree08 via Facebook/ JS100 Radio

The Pollution Control Department (PCD) warned residents of Bangkok to prepare for an escalation in ultra-fine particle pollution in the air, which is anticipated to worsen by Wednesday. As a result of this alert, the PCD has implored individuals residing in the capital to opt for remote working until the situation improves.

The intensifying accumulation of PM2.5 pollutants, according to Preeyaporn Suwanakate, the PCD’s director-general, is a consequence of compromised air circulation in several areas across the city. This complication is largely attributed to the combination of low atmospheric pressure and fluctuating wind patterns in the region, leading to the buildup of pollutants.

She mentioned that the current winds from the south would be replaced by winds from the east and northeast, which would transport pollutants from other regions into Bangkok.

In response to the warning from the department, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has increased its scrutiny of all pollution sources within the city. Additionally, the BMA has directed schools to establish dust-free rooms at all kindergartens and schools under its jurisdiction.

Government agencies and companies are encouraged to support remote working, as commuting within the city contributes significantly to air pollution.

To further mitigate pollution, the government is offering up to 55% discounts to those intending to change their engine oil and oil filters.

Satellite imagery from Thailand’s Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA) identified 1,566 hotspots on January 9, 1,139 on January 10, and 1,023 on January 11.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has been updated on the situation and plans to discuss the matter with his Cambodian counterpart, Hun Manet, during his visit to Thailand on February 7.

Previously, PM Srettha mentioned that Thailand and Cambodia will establish a joint task force to combat transboundary haze pollution, reported Bangkok Post.

Also, Preeyaporn stated that the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry has requested the secretary-general of ASEAN to persuade all countries within the Greater Mekong Subregion to prevent forest fires and crackdown on activities leading to transboundary haze, such as slash-and-burn farming.

Currently, GISTDA collaborates with the National Research Council of Thailand, the Pollution Control Department, Kasetsart University, and Chiang Mai University to monitor the PM2.5 situation in Bangkok.

As of 10am on Sunday, 33 districts in Bangkok reported hazardous pollution levels, with PM2.5 levels in those districts surpassing the PCD’s safe exposure limit of 37.5 µg/m³. These districts comprise Phra Khanong, Don Muang, Lak Si, Bang Na, Prawet, Klong Toey, Suan Luang, and Sai Mai districts. Additionally, PM2.5 levels in 34 other provinces, predominantly in the North and Central Plains, also exceeded the safety threshold.

In Chiang Mai, farmers are advised to merely plough their rice fields ahead of the forthcoming planting season, rather than burning rice straw, which exacerbates haze pollution. Farmers lacking tractors for ploughing are urged to register on the Fire-D application, which was developed for monitoring forest fires. The governor of Chiang Mai, Nitirat Pongsitthithaworn, has directed agencies to provide tractors for farmers in need.

Furthermore, a budget will be allocated for the purchase of fuel for these tractors, to deter the necessity for burning. Nitirat has also tasked the chiefs of 25 districts in the northern provinces with convincing farmers to refrain from burning farmland.

Initial estimates predicted that the burning would impact over 100,000 rai of farmland. However, following negotiations, numerous farmers agreed to discontinue burning and adopt alternative methods to eliminate rice straw. “This will save more than 70,000 rai from fires,” the governor said.

Environment NewsThailand News

Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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