CHIANG RAI – Northern Thailand residents suffered from increased air pollution yesterday as many areas had dangerous levels of tiny particulate dust, fueled by multiple forest fires in many parts of the region and in neighboring countries.
The Pollution Control Department (PCD) at 11am, put the 24-hour average of PM2.5 – airborne particulates 2.5 microns or less in diameter – between 27 and 177 micrograms per cubic metre of air in nine northern provinces.
Tambon Jong Kham in Muang Mae Hong Son was worst off at 177 mcg, followed by Wiang Phang Kham in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district at 143 mcg.
Tambon Wiang in Muang Chiang Rai cited 98 mcg, while Chang Pheuk, Sri Phum and Suthep in Muang Chiang Mai cited 90 mcg, 72 mcg, 65 mcg respectively and Chang Kherng in Mae Chaem cited 67 mcg.
Chiang Mai University mobile “Dust Boy” devices however showed real-time readings that several spots in Chiang Mai had even more dangerously high levels.
The “DustBoy” showed that as of 11am, Tambon Yang Mern and Tambon Samoeng Tai in Samoeng district cited the PM2.5 levels of 563.57 mcg and 521.41 mcg while both flashing the alarming “Beyond AQI” message.
Chiang Mai also was the world’s second most polluted city on airvisual.comas at 11am as it had an air quality index (AQI) of 246 and 195 mcg in PM2.5, after Lahore (261 and 211.6 mcg).
Chiang Mai proceeded with haze-control measures including strictly enforcing the outdoor burning ban, tackling forest fires – where Chiang Mai as of 2.54am had 131 hot spots – and procuring another 50,000 face masks for distribution, in addition to the 600,000 face masks that were previously handed out, said deputy provincial governor Khomsan Suwan-ampa.
Officials raised people’s awareness and equipped them with health information while a “Air Safety Zone” with air-purifying devices was set at the International Exhibition and Convention Centre in Muang district to support up to 1,000 people, he said.
The serious PM2.5 crisis in the northern provinces is leaving local people, especially groups sensitive to air pollution and poor people in rural areas, facing a grave threat to health. Prolonged exposure to PM2.5 can lead to serious diseases such as asthma, stroke, or even cancer.
A seminar will be held on April 4 for officials from all nine northern haze-affected provinces to exchange ideas and co-ordinate in haze-tackling, The Nation reports.
In Phayao’s Muang district where the 24-hour average of PM2.5 was cited at 65 mcg, district chief Suwit Suriyawong instructed forest firefighting staff to put out hot spots in tambon Mae Na Rua and tambon Mae Ka – the latter of which damaged 50 rais of forestland before it was extinguished.
In Mae Hon Son’s Muang district, despite the authority’s declaration to close off forestland days ago, a forest fire occurred at 3.30am near the entrance to Wat Phra That Doi Kongmu but officials put it out within an hour.
Another fire then took place in forest along the Highway 108 in tambon Huai Pong, damaging internet cables, resulting in the lost signal in parts of the city for the fifth time this month.
A source at the TOT PCL’s Mae Hong Son branch said seven internet service operators had earlier raised Bt1 million for workers to cut tree branches and creepers along the highways number 108, 1095 and another 15 roads to prevent forest fire damaging Internet cables.