Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health has set up an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to deal with the severe issue of transnational haze pollution, which is expected to worsen, particularly in the northern region.
Dr. Opas Karnkawinpong, Permanent Secretary for Public Health, acknowledged the continuing threat posed by PM2.5, ultra-fine dust particles thought to be detrimental to peoples health in northern Thailand.
While seasonal rains have temporarily alleviated the problem in Bangkok, forecasts indicate a resurgence later in the year that will linger until mid-March. The anticipated drier and hotter temperatures may raise the likelihood of forest fires, compounding the air quality issues.
The EOC’s goal is to work with other organizations to maintain a careful eye on environmental conditions and health consequences. Short-term health hazards include respiratory and skin irritation, as well as an increased risk of developing serious illnesses such as heart disease and cancer over time.
Vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and children, should stay indoors, ideally in places equipped with air purifiers.
Dr. Opas stressed the significance of tackling the underlying causes of PM2.5 pollution, which are mostly associated with vehicle emissions and industrial operations.
To tackle the pollution crisis, the Ministry is moving toward renewable energy options, such as the installation of solar panels and the potential deployment of electric cars as ambulances in public healthcare facilities.
Haze in Northern Thailand: Causes and Impact
Thick haze has become a prevalent issue in northern Thailand. The region often experiences hazardous levels of air pollution, especially during the dry season. The haze not only poses a significant threat to public health but also has adverse effects on the environment and the economy.
What Causes the Haze?
The haze in northern Thailand is primarily caused by agricultural activities, including the practice of slash-and-burn farming. Farmers set fire to their fields to clear land for the next planting season, resulting in large amounts of smoke and particulate matter being released into the atmosphere. Additionally, vehicle emissions, industrial processes, and forest fires contribute to the worsening air quality in the region.
Environmental and Health Impacts
The haze has detrimental effects on both the environment and public health. High levels of particulate matter in the air contribute to respiratory problems, including aggravated asthma, bronchitis, and other lung diseases. Moreover, the pollutants from the haze can contaminate water sources and harm soil quality, impacting the local ecosystems and agricultural productivity.
The haze also has economic repercussions, particularly on the tourism industry. Northern Thailand is known for its picturesque landscapes and cultural attractions, drawing a significant number of tourists each year. However, the haze diminishes visibility and air quality, deterring tourists and causing financial losses for businesses in the region.
Addressing the Issue
Efforts to mitigate the haze in northern Thailand involve implementing sustainable agricultural practices, enforcing stricter regulations on burning activities, and promoting alternative livelihoods for local communities. Additionally, enhancing air quality monitoring and early warning systems can help in managing the impact of the haze on public health.
The haze in northern Thailand presents a complex challenge that requires a multi-faceted approach for resolution. By understanding the causes and impacts of the haze, as well as implementing targeted measures, it is possible to alleviate the effects on public health, the environment, and the economy in the region. Heightened awareness and concerted action are essential in addressing this pressing issue.