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Air Quality and Haze Crisis Worsens in Northern Thailand

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CHIANG RAI – AirVisual, an internationally recognized platform for air-quality data, ranked Chiang Mai as the world’s top 20 polluted city’s on Tuesday afternoon. The sky in Chiang Mai has been of brownish hue for several days now, the Nation Reports.

The Pollution Control Department (PCD) reported yesterday that the level of PM2.5 – airborne particulates of 2.5 microns or less in diameter – in Chiang Mai’s Muang district hovered at around 85-94 micrograms per cubic metre of air, well above the 50mcg safe limit.

PM10 was at 114mcg to 123mcg, exceeding the 100mcg safe limit, and the Air Quality Index (AQI) ranged between 188mcg and 203mcg, double the 100mcg safety threshold.

Chiang Mai University’s Legal Research and Development Centre said that in the face of such serious air pollution, government agencies should start handing out free protective masks to people.

The Pollution Control Department (PCD) reported that the amount of small dust particles in the North of Thailand was very high yesterday mainly due to forest fires. There have been more than 1,000 hot-spots in Northern Thailand this past week.

Though haze in the northern province of Chiang Rai appeared to have eased yesterday, it was still at a worrying level with PM2.5 per cubic metre of air recorded at 52mcg and its at AQI at 141.

Smog also enveloped the nearby province of Nan for three consecutive days, as locals rushed to burn agricultural fires before authorities imposed a ban in their area.

In nearby Lampang, the smog was so bad that authorities issued a red warning and vowed tough action against those lighting outdoor fires.

A strict ban has been imposed on outdoor fires in Northern Thailand from February 10 to April 15.

Meanwhile, Smog returned to most parts of the Greater Bangkok on Wednesday afternoon.

After about 10 days of respite, the amount of PM2.5 or particulates of 2.5 micron in diameter or less started soaring past safe limits again in the capital and its adjacent provinces.

Out of 43 areas where air-quality monitoring devices are available, 28 found the PM2.5 amount went past the safe limit at 3pm on Wednesday.

The World Health Organisation has described PM2.5 as carcinogenic. According to Thailand’s Pollution Control Department, the amount of PM2.5 should not go beyond 50 micrograms per cubic metre of air.