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Dangerous Levels of Haze Particles Return to Northern Thailand

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CHIANG RAI -Thailand’s Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation reported on Monday that Northern provinces were suffering from dangerous levels of PM2.5 dust particles, including Tambon Wiang Phang Kham in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district with the day’s peak of 117 micro-grams per cubic metre (mcg) of air, more than double the Thai safety limit of 50mcg.

Director-general Chayapol Thitisak said the level of particulate matter 2.5 micrometres or less in diameter exceeded the safe threshold of 50 microgrammes per cubic metre of air in the past 24 hours in parts of the seven provinces.

The levels of fine dust ranged from 53 to 101mcg in these areas. The worst was in Chiang Rai province, Mr Chayapol said. He blamed the pollution on people burning off fields before planting crops, and forest fires.

Chiang Rai Governor Prajon Prachsakul, meanwhile, urged local officials to implement problem-solving measures and coordinated with the Thai-Myanmar Township Border Committee in an effort to get Myanmar to strictly implement measures against outdoor burning and forest fires.

Air pollution in tambon Wiang Phang Kham stood at 117mcg at 9am and further worsened to 128mcg at 11am.

Chiang Mai city, meanwhile, again returned to a covering of haze and poor visibility, with 58-70mcg readings after a period of good-quality air since March 5.

The level of PM2.5 particles in the nine northern provinces ranged from 29mcg to 117mcg as of 9am on Monday, the Pollution Control Department reported.

The areas with beyond-safe PM2.5 levels included: Tambon Jong Kham (81mcg) in Mae Hong Son’s Mueang district; Tambon Nai Wiang (81mcg) in Nan’s Mueang district and Tambon Huai Kon (77mcg) in Chalem Phra Kiat district; and Tambon Chang Pheuk (70mcg) and Tambon Sri Phum (58mcg) in Chiang Mai’s Mueang district.

Beyond-safe levels were also experienced in: Tambon Phra Baht (64 mcg) in Mueang district and Tambon Ban Dong (75mcg) in Mae Mo district of Lampang; Tambon Wiang (56mcg) in Chiang Rai’s Mueang district ; Tambon Na Chak (66mcg) in Phrae’s Mueang district; and Tambon Ban Tom (67mcg) in Phayao’s Mueang district.

Phayao – in the midst of combating multiple outbreaks of forest fire – reported that officials had put out a fire that damaged a total of 100 rai (16 hectares) in Tambon Dong Jen of Phu Kamyao district, which stemmed from villagers lighting fires while poaching for forest products.

A satellite-image report cited Mae Hong Son province as of 1.54am on Monday having 115 fire hot spots, especially in the three districts of Pai (33 hot spots), Pang Mapha (30) and Mueang (29).

These were contributing to a dangerous PM2.5 level of 81mcg, although Srisangwal Hospital had not yet detected any unusual increase in the number of respiratory patients.

By Kriangkrai Rattana kha, Panwich Yoodee
The Nation