Air pollution problems in Thailand

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Re: Air pollution problems in Thailand

Post by Gaybutton » Wed Mar 13, 2019 8:40 am

Chiang Mai air pollution worst in the world

by Apinya Wipatayotin

March 13, 2019

Forest fires have sent air quality in nine provinces to a level considered harmful to people's health, as cities in the North like Chiang Mai registered air quality that was among the world's worst.

The air quality index (AQI) in Chiang Mai as of 4am Tuesday stood at 230, compared with 170 in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka and 164 in Kabul, Afghanistan, according to Air Visual, an app that monitors air quality.

At midnight Tuesday, in slightly cooler night-time temperatures, Chiang Mai still was listed as the world's worst, with air quality in the high-danger zone for all residents but below 200 on the AQI scale.

The AQI measures a broad spectrum of air pollutants including PM2.5, PM10 and carbon dioxide.

Information from the Pollution Control Department (PCD) confirmed the haze in the North had reached worrying levels.

PM2.5 refers to atmospheric particulate matter (PM) with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres, which is about 3% the diameter of a human hair. It can lodge in the lungs and enter blood vessels, leading to respiratory and cardiovascular disease.

According to PCD-supplied information taken from 17 air-quality-monitoring stations in nine provinces as of 9am Tuesday, the level of PM2.5 ranged from 70-124 microgrammes per cubic metre (µg/m³), exceeding the safety standard of 50 µg/m³ or lower.

Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district had the worst recorded level (163 µg/m³), followed by Phrae, Lampang, Nan and Chiang Mai.

The pollution has become such a pressing concern that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is scheduled to visit Chiang Rai this Saturday, eight days before the national election.

"Prime Minister Prayut will take a field trip to Chiang Rai with the purpose of following up on measures to deal with the haze in the North," Pralong Damrongthai, director-general of the PCD, told the media Tuesday.

Dr Rangsrit Kanjanavanit, a Chiang Mai resident who serves as a lecturer and cardiologist at the Faculty of Medicine at Chiang Mai University, said the smoggy skies show how the government's campaign to eradicate forest fires and open burning has yet to prove a success.

Dr Rangsrit, who also holds the post of vice president of the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation, said the government should come up with more sustainable and comprehensive measures, instead of just arresting farmers who start fires, or firing water to try and control dust levels.

"It should find a way to dissuade farmers from burning [waste] by giving them incentives,"he said.

Some of the haze has been attributed to neighbouring countries like Laos and Myanmar.

As such, critics say Thailand should work more with other governments to tackle the widespread practice of open burning.

Haze has been a seasonal problem in the North for over a decade. It usually appears from January to April but peaks in March as the extremely dry conditions increase the magnitude of forest fires.

This is compounded by farmers burning waste to clear land for the next harvest season.

Story, photo, graphics: https://www.bangkokpost.com/news/genera ... -the-world

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Re: Air pollution problems in Thailand

Post by billyhouston » Wed Mar 13, 2019 8:28 pm

For those who know Chiang Mai, Doi Suthep was not visible from Chotana Road at 1000 today.

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Re: Air pollution problems in Thailand

Post by Gaybutton » Tue Apr 02, 2019 3:12 pm

You can get current air quality information for Chiang Mai at: https://www.airvisual.com/thailand/chiang-mai

You can also get information for virtually anywhere in the world there: https://www.airvisual.com

I suggest registering. It's free.
_______________________________________________
Prayut flies to Chiang Mai to tackle worst air on planet

April 2, 2019

Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha flew into Chiang Mai early on Tuesday to review the crisis caused by a thick blanket of smog and toxic levels of PM2.5 dust that has been choking northern Thailand for several weeks.

The city’s air quality index was 379 as he visited, the worst major urban reading globally and a level that’s hazardous, according to IQAir AirVisual pollution data.

Thai authorities blame crop burning to clear farmland, as well as wildfires in mountainous forests amid a drought and searing heat. Chiang Mai has set up a so-called safe zone for residents in a convention centre, while a university in Chiang Rai cancelled classes on Monday and Tuesday.

'The haze usually comes and goes within a week or two, but it’s been persistent this time -- it’s the worst so far,' Khuanchai Supparatpinyo, the director of Chiang Mai University’s Research Institute for Health Sciences, said in an interview. 'This can be quite dangerous, and pose health risks.'

Northern Thailand is a popular destination for visitors during the traditional Songkran new year festival in mid-April but the smog is likely to make some holidaymakers think twice.

At the start of 2019, the military government was rattled by a second year of spiking seasonal air pollution in Bangkok, exacerbated by traffic fumes, industrial emissions and construction dust.

So far the episodes of smog haven’t damaged tourism but worsening haze could pose a challenge for an industry that’s key to economic growth.

Top Asian finance ministers and central bankers are due to have a summit in northern Thailand this week, and they’ll need pollution masks if they want to avoid breathing toxic air.

The air was classed as unhealthy in nearby Chiang Rai, where finance ministry officials and central bankers from Southeast Asian nations as well as China, Japan and South Korea will meet from Tuesday through Friday. The Bank of Thailand has said it will hand out pollution masks to media covering the event.

https://www.bangkokpost.com/news/genera ... -on-planet
_____________________________________


PM wants smog problem resolved in seven days

By Saksit Muttafa, Krissana Porjit
The Nation

April 2, 2019

While the northern region reeled under the problem of forest fires and haze, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha affirmed the government was ready to support the integration of related agencies’ work to tackle this problem in seven days.

Prayut, who visited Chiang Mai on Tuesday morning, also said His Majesty the King was concerned about the northern smog crisis and was closely following the situation.

The premier also presented some forest fire-fighting equipment along with facemasks and drinking water at a ceremony at the 33rd Military Circle at Kawila Camp. Some 100 police, Army and forest firefighters attended the event where the premier praised the sacrifices of the operative officials and forest fire-fighting volunteers and asked them to ensure their safety.

Despite reports of high PM2.5 pollution – airborne particulates 2.5 microns or less in diameter – and the visibly smoggy conditions, Prayut and most people at the event did not wear facemasks.

During the ceremony, representatives of a Chiang Mai-based Indian community association donated drinking water and facemasks to the forest firefighters.

Prayut also attended a meeting to follow up on the northern forest fire and smog situation at the Bank of Thailand’s Northern Region Office.

He said the government had all along been working on the problem via the Interior Ministry. Provincial governors, district chiefs as well as related state offices had been instructed to oversee the situation in their jurisdiction and tackle the issue, he said.

Prayut said he came to the meeting in the hope of hearing about the haze-tackling measures being implemented, the progress or result, and the obstacles operative officials encountered.

Promising the government’s backing to officials, especially in term of budgets, the premier said that this issue must be resolved in seven days, including fire-hit forestlands and farmlands as well as the haze-affected city areas.

Meanwhile, the Chiang Mai Air Quality Health Index (CMAQHI) Centre’s website (cmaqhi.org) said the hourly results of PM2.5 in Chiang Mai’s eight stations in the surrounding districts such as Samoeng, Mae Taeng and Sanpathong were dangerously high at around 500 micrograms (mcg) per cubic metre of air.

The Thai safe limit for PM2.5 is 50mcg. As of 11am, CMAQHI said Tambon Samoeng Tai in Samoeng had 531mcg followed by Tambon Kud Chang in Mae Taeng (502mcg). The air quality in both the places was so bad that the devices kept flashing “Beyond AQI”.

The Pollution Control Department put the 24-hour average of PM2.5 at between 39mcg and 238mcg in nine northern provinces. The worst-hit were Tambon Jong Kham in Muang district of Mae Hong Son province (238mcg), Tambon Wiang Phang Kham in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province (145mcg), Wiang in the Muang district of Chiang Rai (144mcg), Chang Pheuk in the Muang district of Chiang Mai (143mcg), Ban Klang in the Muang district of Lamphun province (132mcg) and Huai Khon in Chalerm Phrakiat district of Nan province (122mcg).

The Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency’s fire-monitoring system, citing a satellite image as of 1.36am on Tuesday, said there were 1,969 hot spots in nine northern provinces. Mae Hong Son had the most with 821 hotspots, followed by Chiang Mai (478), Chiang Rai (232), Lampang (116), Tak (89), Nan (77), Phayao (74), Phrae (63), and Lamphun (19).

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/ ... l/30366982

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Re: Air pollution problems in Thailand

Post by Bob » Tue Apr 02, 2019 4:09 pm

The air here in Chiangmai has been horrible, worst I've ever seen it in almost 19+ years. I use an app (AirVisual) to measure the air quality and lately it's been 400-500 around noon time. 50 is the standard for Thailand for "healthy" air although the World Health Organization uses half of that (25) for the healthy-air standard. I live on the west end of town and as of late there is no visible mountain for most of the day.

And what's strange is the reading for Chiangmai by 3 or 4 PM is usually under 200 (at the moment, it's 156) but, frankly, I don't believe that for a second. Kinda hard to believe that 200+ mcg's just disappeared into thin air!

But....here comes the white knight Prayut and orders them to fix the problem in 7 days. Trump must be his climate adviser....

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Re: Air pollution problems in Thailand

Post by Jun » Tue Apr 02, 2019 6:36 pm

He could try banning crop burning and send the police and army out to enforce the rules.

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Re: Air pollution problems in Thailand

Post by Gaybutton » Wed Apr 03, 2019 8:47 am

Apparently it isn't just Chiang Mai, but the pollution is a serious problem in much of the far north, including Chiang Rai and even Vientiane.

This photo is from Chiang Rai. It must be just as bad or even worse in Chiang Mai. I'm surprised to see some people still walking around without any kind of face mask at all.

Image

https://www.airvisual.com
________________________________________________

Toxic Smog Turns Thousands of Tourists Away From North

ByJintamas Saksornchai

April 2, 2019

CHIANG MAI — Officials said tourist numbers to northern Thailand have plunged over the past month due to severe air pollution that continues to surge across the region.

Seasonal smog in the north which residents have long complained about has worsened to the point of impacting the tourism sector. Hotel bookings near popular attractions across Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai have sharply dropped with tens of thousands of visitors turning to other destinations.

Tourism Authority Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said Monday that the problem has mostly affected Thai visitors, who have canceled about 15 percent of their hotel bookings in Chiang Mai since last month. He added that March reservations in the popular Chiang Dao district have declined by about 50 percent compared to the same period last year.

A representative of Chiang Rai’s Federation of Industries said the pollution situation this year has been “particularly bad.” He said hotel reservations there have dropped by up to 20 percent compared to 2018, adding that several visitors have turned to the south instead.

A Czech tourist who was visiting Chiang Mai last week said she “can’t breathe,” adding that she decided to head south instead of continuing to Chaing Rai and Laos as she originally planned.

“I thought I was ready for the situation because I knew that Chiang Mai would be very smoggy. I even brought a mask with me,” Eliska Kopecka said Tuesday. “At first it was fine, however after a couple of days my eyes were itchy … my throat was sore and I really started to feel the smog on me.”

Kopecka added that some fellow tourists she knew had also changed their plans to go south to avoid the smog.

Suthirawat Suwanawat, general manager of Suvarnabhumi International Airport, said Tuesday that the number of tourists flying to the north from both of Bangkok’s airports has collectively decreased by about 10,000 a day in recent weeks. Numbers fall even as the world-famous festival of Songkran that normally generates tens of billions of baht in tourism approaches.

Air quality in Chiang Mai today was at “unhealthy” levels while Chiang Rai was at “very unhealthy” levels, according to monitoring organization AirVisual. The situation has been similar in several northern provinces including Phayao and Mae Hong Son. The deteriorating air quality in the north prompted junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha to fly there today.

Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith today said about 40 flights have been grounded in Mae Hong Son since late February due to poor visibility from smog and smokes.

The problem in the north has largely been blamed on severe open burning both in and outside the country.

A public health official in Chiang Rai said yesterday that the province’s situation had greatly aggravated in the past couple of days, warning of serious health effects especially among vulnerable groups such as elders, small children and those who already suffer from chronic respiratory diseases.

Praphai Piriyasurawong, a professor at Chiang Rai Rajabhat University which has canceled classes because of the smog, said by phone Tuesday that many of his acquaintances have fallen sick. He himself has felt the effects acutely because he has allergies.

“It’s very bad. When I go outside, my eyes are irritated and I feel dizzy almost immediately,” he said. “The tear glands of one of my students have even leaked pus.”

As a Chiang Rai resident of 15 years, Praphai thinks that the situation this year has worsened because of the weather.

“There are normally thunderstorms during March which bring rain. The rain helps ease the smog levels,” he said. “It’s almost Songkran and there hasn’t been rain.”

During today’s visit to Chiang Mai, Gen. Prayuth emphasized the importance of enforcing a ban on open burning, while officials continued to deploy fire trucks to spray water across the city.

Story and photos: http://www.khaosodenglish.com/news/2019 ... rom-north/

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Re: Air pollution problems in Thailand

Post by Asia Traveler » Wed Apr 03, 2019 9:47 pm

Is there a guide some where online that projects pollution rates durning the year similar to a climate guide? For instance it if I remember correctly March is the rice field burning in Chiangmai so that would be predicted as a poor month for pollution. My search on web has not turned up anything other than the real-time and short term projections of expected pollution. I would like to have this “pollution climate” as a tool for travel planning purposes.

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Re: Air pollution problems in Thailand

Post by Jun » Thu Apr 04, 2019 12:39 am

The weather is uncontrollable. What a country burns Is controllable.

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Re: Air pollution problems in Thailand

Post by Gaybutton » Thu Apr 04, 2019 9:37 am

The air pollution problem is so bad in parts of Chiang Mai that it has actually gone off the charts.
___________________________________________________________________________________

Air pollution surpasses measurable levels

April 04, 2019
The Nation

Soldiers join mission to tackle forest fires in North; army turns to US, Australia for training in handling hotspots

Air pollution in parts of Chiang Mai’s Samoeng district was so bad yesterday that it surpassed the maximum measurable levels of the Air Quality Index (AQI), reflecting the severity of the smog crisis in the North.

A real-time reading by the Chiang Mai Air Quality Health Index (CMAQHI) showed AQI scores in Samoeng’s tambon Yang Mern had soared beyond 500 – the highest level the AQI can record. Soldiers, meanwhile, have joined the mission to combat forest fires that are identified as the main cause of haze.

Locals say forest fires have been raging in Samoeng since March 27 and smoke from the blaze has spread all over the district.

Based on the AQI system, scores of between 401 and 500 indicate hazardous levels of air pollution when no one should venture outdoors, not even healthy people.

Established by the Chiang Mai University’s academics, CMAQHI found AQI scores hovered between 428 and 459 in at least nine tambon of Chiang Mai’s San Pa Tong, Mae Rim, Mae Wang and Phrao districts yesterday.

A key indicator of AQI is the amount of PM2.5, or particulate matter of not more than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, per cubic metre of air. According to the World Health Organisation, PM2.5 is carcinogenic and linked to several health problems.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha visited Chiang Mai and ordered that relevant authorities integrate anti-smog efforts and improve the situation within seven days.

In response to his order, Third Army Area’s deputy chief, Maj-General Bancha Duriyapunt, posted on Facebook yesterday that his unit had already adjusted its response plan. “We have now identified high-risk areas and are working closely with the district chief, provincial governors and chiefs of provincial peace-keeping forces,” his post read.

According to him, healthy soldiers, policemen and volunteers will be dispatched to survey high-risk areas. If forest fires are spotted, they will immediately alert relevant units.

“This way, we can send in a team or even helicopters to help extinguish the fires,” Bancha said. The surveys will be conducted until April 9, with information gathered to prepare forest-fire prevention and solutions.

The Army, meanwhile, announced that the Second Army Area will also join the mission to put out forest fires.

“We have prepared four helicopters for the mission,” the Army said. “The Royal Thai Air Force will also provide some more aircraft.”

Army chief General Apirat Kongsompong said HM King Maha Vajiralongkorn and HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn were worried about the recurrence of forest fires and have asked about training soldiers for the purpose of tackling fires.

“We have now contacted the United States and Australia, both of which have forest fire-fighting units, to arrange relevant training,” Apirat said.

Recognising the serious air pollution in Samoeng district’s tambon Yang Mern, a team from Chiang Mai University will head to the area on Sunday. The team said it will conduct health checks for locals particularly children, the elderly, those with chronic diseases, as well as officials fighting forest fires.

The team also plans to provide relevant knowledge and protective gear for locals, and will also develop a clean room for people to take shelter from the harmful haze.

“At least, locals will have a temporary shelter during the smog crisis,” the team’s representative said yesterday.

Hourly reports on the website of the Chiang Mai Air Quality Health Index Centre (cmaqhi.org) through the morning showed PM2.5 at its highest concentration in tambon Yang Mern measuring 618 micrograms per cubic metre of air.

The safe limit in Thailand is 50.

The Chiang Mai University rector’s office in Chang Pheuk, Muang Chiang Mai, measured 282mcg of PM2.5, but that dropped to 90mcg by 11am. Readings in Yang Mern also fell to 296mcg.

Later measurements showed the levels at Chiang Dao at 400mcg and Mae Na and Ping Kong in Chiang Dao district at 371 and 358, respectively.

The Pollution Control Department at 9am yesterday put the 24-hour average of PM2.5 in nine northern provinces at between 29mcg and 277mcg.

Tambon Jong Kham in Muang Mae Hong Son was the worst-hit with 277mcg, followed by Wiang Phang Kham in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai (162) and Chang Pheuk in Muang Chiang Mai (130).

Chiang Mai’s three other stations also cited high levels – Sri Phum and Suthep in Muang at 109 and 77 respectively, and Chang Kerng in Mae Chaem at 111.

Meanwhile, the haze has also spread to other provinces in the North, as naturally occurring forest fires and deliberately lit outdoor fires together totalled 793 hotspots as of 3am yesterday.

The Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency said Mae Hong Son had 372 hotspots, Chiang Mai 161 and Chiang Rai 112.

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Re: Air pollution problems in Thailand

Post by Gaybutton » Sun Apr 07, 2019 6:56 am

EXCLUSIVE: Haze woes likely to linger, worsen

By Piyaporn Wongruang

April 6, 2019

CITING NEW CONTRIBUTING FACTORS, ENVIRONMENTALISTS GLOOMY OVER PROSPECTS OF ENDING PROBLEM ANYTIME SOON – LET ALONE IN ONE WEEK


Visiting Chiang Mai on Tuesday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha issued an order to end the haze crisis in the North within seven days, alongside declaring it part of the national agenda.

However, environmental groups like Greenpeace are saying that such an unprecedented short-term directive would do little to resolve what has become a persistent crisis requiring serious long-term measures.

Greenpeace country director Tara Buakamsri said the haze was not simply an environmental matter, but rather demands multidisciplinary knowledge to bring under control.

“About four years ago, judging from the number of hotspots there are now, we had the same old problem,” he said. “It’s same story and we still haven’t effectively undertaken anything to address it.”

Tara was referring to the 10,133 large, open fires that the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISDA) observed in the North between January and May 2016.

Unlike the smog that enveloped Bangkok early in the year, the haze crisis in the North stems largely from spontaneous dry-season forest fires and other fires deliberately set to clear farmland.

GISDA has found that the number of hotspots in nine northern provinces including Chiang Mai has been climbing since early March. From the dozens initially seen, the number soared in mid-March, surpassing last year’s record for the same period.

As of this past Monday, the agency recorded 6,069 hotspots, compared to 4,722 in the same period last year.

The statistics echo those of the Royal Forestry Department, which recorded at least 5,909 hotspots in the North on Monday. Of these, 641 were burning outside forestlands, 772 were on farms abutting forests, and 4,496 were within forests.

Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son, Lampang and Tak are worst off, accounting for 63 per cent of the fires observed. Chiang Mai alone had 1,033.

Most observers believe the northern blazes are closely tied to the region’s traditional farming practices.

Haze Free Thailand, a project run by the Research University Network, has been studying the causes since last year, looking for possible solutions.

Most of the fires are set during the dry season and are the result of different land-use patterns, it has found.

Every January and into February, farmers set fires in their lowland fields to burn off scrub from the previous crop and prepare the soil for planting the next one.

Every February and into March, people who forage for mushrooms and other woodland edibles set fires within forests and clear undergrowth to set firebreaks, and sometimes trigger out-of-control forest fires.

Critical factors have now begun contribution to the haze problem, particularly clearing highland forests for mono-crop cultivation and rotational farming. Corn has become the most popular crop in the region as more farmers sign contracts with agro-giants.

Project researchers found that bans imposed on outdoor burning every March and April do not deter farmers from burning off the leftover stubble in their fields ahead of the rainy season.

During mid March, Tara had also observed smoke pouring into the North from neighbouring countries, again the product of cropland burning.

Based on GISDA’s MODIS satellite imagery from March 11 to 17, it had captured 728 hotspots in Laos, 446 in Myanmar and 103 in Cambodia.

During that same period, the level of PM2.5 – particulate matter 2.5 microns or less in diameter – topped the World Health Organisation safe standard (25 micrograms per cubic metre of air) across 80 per cent of Thailand.

It was clear, Tara said, that transboundary pollution was significantly adding to Thailand’s woes.

The positive note to this year’s haze crisis, he said, is that more citizens are now aware of the health risks posed by the fine dust particles in the air, and their loud complaints have caught the government’s attention.

Tara pointed out that the problem has impacts beyond the health of humans and the environment, extending to the economy as well.

Environmentalists have also noticed more fires in forests this year than in community woods.

Tara blames this on soured relations between farmers and forestry officials, who are perceived to be heavy-handed following the millitary orders when farms are found to be overlapping on forests.

This conflict, he said, also needs to be doused.

As for the pollution crossing borders, Tara said Southeast Asian countries cannot place much hope in the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution because it’s had scant practical effect, due to member-countries’ shared policy of not interfering in each other’s internal affairs.

Instead, he said, the solution could lie in other means. Singapore, for example, has a law against business operators elsewhere creating air pollution.

Other countries should consider similar legislation, Tara said.

“But that would require a strong government, one that dares face up to big business. And big business often has a heavy influence in politics today, so I’m not sure if we could enforce similar laws here,” he said.

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