Bangkok struggles with escalating PM2.5 levels: urgent government intervention needed

Picture courtesy of Pattarapong Chatpattarasill

Bangkok is grappling with a severe rise in PM2.5 levels, necessitating immediate intervention from the government. Nearly 29 of the city’s 50 districts have recorded PM2.5 concentrations surpassing 35 micrograms per cubic metre (μg/m3), making the air unfit for breathing.

The districts with the highest PM2.5 concentrations include Bangkok Yai (105.1μg/m3), Thonburi (104.8μg/m3), Nong Khaem (103.7μg/m3), Khlong San (100.6μg/m3), and Bang Kho Laem (99.5μg/m3), according to data from the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA).

Addressing the issue at the Sustainability Forum 2023 yesterday, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin disclosed that strategies for pollution control are on the agenda. He also mentioned the government’s ongoing wildfire prevention campaign as a contributing factor to managing the pollution crisis.

Plans are underway to levy taxes on companies importing agricultural produce like corn from Myanmar and Laos, where farmers practice slash-and-burn farming. The collected tax will fund the Stop Wildfire project and assist farmers who refrain from burning their farmlands post-harvest.

PM Srettha, accompanied by Pimphattra Wichaikul, the minister of industry, later surveyed the pollution levels at the Ratchaprasong intersection. He highlighted the government’s collaboration with the private sector on construction projects and said that water spraying on buildings in the capital could help decrease dust levels in the air, reported Bangkok Post.

Sugarcane burning before harvest was identified as another contributor to the pollution problem, and the prime minister ordered the curbing of such activities.

Environmental threat

He emphasised that PM2.5 pollution is not merely an environmental issue but also a threat to public health and the tourism sector. Further, road traffic was identified as a significant contributor to soaring PM2.5 levels. The government is considering promoting the use of electric vehicles to address this issue.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) is employing several strategies to combat pollution. In collaboration with various agencies, it is offering discounts for oil changes for vehicles older than seven years and working with the Department of Land Transport to monitor emissions from public buses regularly.

The BMA is also considering collaborating with barbecue restaurants in high-risk areas to implement vacuum systems to reduce dust levels. Furthermore, pollution control measures at factories and construction sites will be tightened.

Yesterday, GISTADA reported that five other provinces were also battling high PM2.5 levels. Samut Sakhon registered the highest levels at 92.5μg/m3, followed by Nakhon Pathom (86.2μg/m3), Rayong (83.1μg/m3), Bangkok (75.8μg/m3), Samut Prakan (75.7μg/m3), and Nonthaburi (71.9μg/m3).

The Minister of Natural Resources and Environment has instructed the Pollution Control Department to address the root causes of pollution.

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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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