CHIANG RAI – Just 3 days after officials convened in Chiang Rai for the Greater Mekong Sub-region(GMS) meeting on smog prevention, the Ministry of Public Health has instructed its northern Thailand offices to provide free face masks to people affected by the smog.
Smog levels in the North were found in excess of safety levels, potentially causing respiratory problems for local residents. Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Public Health Dr. Sophon Mekthon ordered health officials in the region to be ready to help people in times of need.
Mobile medical teams will be dispatched to affected areas to ensure people who are suffering from the haze receive appropriate medical care. A so-called ‘clean room’ will be set up in every district for people with asthma, the elderly, pregnant women, and small children.
The ministry has advised people to avoid smog-hit areas and outdoor exercise. Windows and doors should be kept shut, and a mask or wet cloth should be placed over one’s nose while outside the house. Burning activities are prohibited.
Just 3 days ago, The Minister of Natural Resource and Environmental, General Surasak Kanjanarat, said he was confident northern Thailand this year would experience a 30 per cent drop in haze-causing fire hotspots due to anti-outdoor burning and forest fire measures.
Forest fires and slash-and-burn agriculture are the two major causes of smoke, putting people’s health at risk and damaging the tourism industry. The five nations then vowed to make the GMS region a haze free bloc by 2020.
The north of Thailand is prone to smoke and wildfires. In the past 5 years, Thai cities that have been severely hit by polluted air include Chiang Rai, Chaing Mai, Lamphun, Lampang, Phrae, Nan, Phayao, Mae Hong Son, and Tak.
The Thai government has now issued a 2-month ban on burning in the north in order to keep dust particles down and the likely health hazard under control.