CHIANG RAI – Provincial Governors in Northern Thailand are being urged to step up measures against open-air burning after PM 2.5 pollutants reached extremely hazardous levels for almost a week.
Pralong Damrongthai, director-general of the Pollution Control Department (PCD), said the Interior Ministry has been roped in to prevent the haze situation in the northern region from worsening. He said forest fires are to blame for poor air quality in nine provinces.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is asking provincial authorities to strictly control burning of rubbish, farm waste and clearing of scrubland to reduce haze in the region.
“We’re asking people to refrain from burning activities to prevent the dust levels from rising,” he said.
He stressed that villagers need to wear face masks when venturing outside their homes and visiting areas where the hazardous dust levels are high, adding that vulnerable groups are strongly advised to stay inside.
As of today, the PM2.5 readings in the North stood at 76-300+ microgrammes per cubic metre of air. The worst air quality was in Chiang Rai where the air quality index (AQI) in tambon Wiang Phang Kham in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai stands at 316.
The AQI measures a broad spectrum of air pollutants including PM2.5, PM10 and carbon dioxide.
The Northern Provincial governors have insisted that the ban on burning activity would be enforced strictly.
The haze situation has taken its toll on the tourism in Chiang Rai as the number of visitors to Tham Luang cave complex in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district has reportedly decreased by half from around 3,000-4,000 daily to 1,500 following reports about the haze, according to local officials.
Meanwhile, the Meteorological Department on Thursday issued a summer storm warning for provinces in the Northeast, East, North and Central regions from Saturday to March 27, with the Northeast and the East to be hit first.
A high pressure system from China would move in and meet the hot weather over upper Thailand. From March 23-27 summer thunderstorms were likely in the upper half of country, the department said.