Northern Thailand’s persistent wildfires exacerbate air pollution

Picture courtesy of Panumate Tanraksa

Wildfires persist in northern Thailand, contributing to a surge in air pollution despite recent downpours. As of Monday, Mae Hong Son recorded 6,646 wildfires this year, predominantly in the districts of Mueang Mae Hong Son, Pai, and Mae Sariang. This has led to Mae Hong Son exceeding safe levels of airborne particulates for 38 consecutive days.

Mae Sariang district reported the highest PM2.5 level in the province, peaking at 130.5 microgrammes per cubic metre (µg/m³), followed by Mueang Mae Hong Son (76.5 µg/m³) and Pai (69.6 µg/m³). Provincial Governor Chucheep Phongchai urged district chiefs of Sop Moei and Mae Sariang to prioritise wildfire suppression, which has been identified as the primary cause of the deteriorating air quality.

Worasak Panthong, Mae Sariang District Chief and director of the district’s Wildfire and Pollution Operations Centre affirmed that he had imposed a burning ban and would expedite the creation of firebreaks.

Further, an assistant village head in Baan Nong Khao in Pang Ma Pha district was arrested for allegedly leading locals to set free two suspected fire starters.

Chiang Mai, which had an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 193 yesterday, March 26, was once again the city with the worst air quality on that day. The peak PM2.5 concentration in the province was 26 times higher than the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) air quality guidelines suggest, as per Chiang Mai University’s Climate Change Data Centre also reported that 92 spots exceeded the WHO’s safe PM2.5 threshold, with 66 of those surpassing 100 µg/m³.

The province’s Wildfire and Pollution Control Commanding Centre reported 54 hotspots in 11 districts. The majority were found in the Samoeng district, with 13 spots, followed by Chiang Dao, Omkoi, and Mae Taeng. Nasa satellite hotspot data also revealed more hotspots detected in the region and neighbouring countries such as Laos and Myanmar, reported Bangkok Post.

The Meteorological Department of Thailand (TMD) forecasts hot weather for the northern region, with temperatures soaring to 36–40 degrees Celsius. However, a significant pollution reduction is expected due to improved ventilation from rising winds, mitigating the effects of the sun’s rays in the region.

Chiang Mai NewsEnvironment 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.

Related Articles