Smog shock: Chiang Mai claims ‘top’ spot in global pollution woes

Picture courtesy of Pattaya Mail

Chiang Mai today topped the smog charts as the world’s most polluted city. The northern region of Thailand continues to be ensnared by a thick smog, causing serious health concerns for residents and visitors.

The monitoring website IQAir highlighted Chiang Mai as the city with the worst air pollution levels at 9.20am. The fine dust levels were recorded at an alarming 203 microgrammes per cubic metre, pushing the city into the very unhealthy category. This situation might persist until tomorrow, April 10 and potentially even longer.

The Songkran water festival, a major celebration in Thailand, is set to kick off on Thursday, April 11, and continue until the following Monday. Traditionally, Chiang Mai City sees a surge in holidaymakers during this period, which could heighten concerns about the ongoing pollution crisis.

Nirat Pongsitthithavorn, the governor of Chiang Mai, yesterday declared seven districts as disaster zones, excluding Mueang district, which is among the most polluted areas in the province. These districts include Fang, Phrao, Chiang Dao, Mae Taeng, Chaiprakarn, Mae Ai, and Wieng Haeng, and the declaration will facilitate the provision of emergency assistance linked to the budget.

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Nirat has instructed state officials to opt for working from home until Thursday due to the escalating air pollution. He also urged residents and visitors to avoid outdoor activities where possible and to wear masks when venturing outside.

During a press conference yesterday, Nirat faced questions about allegedly downplaying the severity of the pollution levels in Chiang Mai, as well as the number of patients suffering from respiratory problems. He vehemently denied these allegations, stating that officials “have given the press all information, and you can freely write about it.”

Pita Limjaroenrat, the chief adviser of the Move Forward Party, also criticised the governor and provincial officials for their selective approach towards the pollution problem.

“Other districts with serious pollution are not on the list.”

Today’s report from the Pollution Control Department also listed the northern provinces of Lamphun, Lampang, Phayao, Nan, Chiang Mai, and Mae Hong Song as areas with high PM2.5 dust levels. However, none of these regions have reached the critical pollution levels observed in Chiang Mai.

As the Songkran festival approaches and concerns about high air pollution levels intensify, weather forecasters have issued an alert for possible summer storms in the northern, northeastern, and central regions, extending until Thursday. The Meteorological Department of Thailand anticipates scattered storms in Chiang Mai on Wednesday and Thursday, reported Bangkok Post.

With Chiang Mai leading as the world’s most polluted city, the ongoing air pollution crisis in the city and the wider northern region of Thailand remains a grave concern.

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Bob Scott

Bob Scott is an experienced writer and editor with a passion for travel. Born and raised in Newcastle, England, he spent more than 10 years in Asia. He worked as a sports writer in the north of England and London before relocating to Asia. Now he resides in Bangkok, Thailand, where he is the Editor-in-Chief for The Thaiger English News. With a vast amount of experience from living and writing abroad, Bob Scott is an expert on all things related to Asian culture and lifestyle.

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