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First-car policy 'putting people's health at risk'

Dec 14. 2012
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By Janjira Pongrai
The Natiom

More than 381,184 Bangkok commuters are suffering from respiratory diseases caused by air pollution that has been associated with traffic jams, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration revealed yesterday.

“The volume of cars in the capital has increased the existence of pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, nitrogen dioxide and tiny particles in the air,” BMA Deputy Governor Dr Malinee Sukvejvorakij said.

According to the BMA’s medical division, the number of people suffering from respiratory diseases such as asthma and allergies has risen drastically over the past seven years, with about 20,000 to 30,000 Bangkokians developing symptoms every year. 
Traffic in Bangkok is getting worse thanks to the government’s first-car tax-rebate policy. As of October 31, car registrations in Bangkok had revved up to 7,384,934, of which 296,553 were for new cars bought under the first-car policy.
Though the number of cars registered has risen this year, the Pollution Control Department’s director general Wichian Jungrungreung said the quality of air in the capital was still “good” and that the number of particles smaller than 10 micrometres had reduced over the past two years. 
“We have been strictly controlling air and noise pollution released from vehicles on the road,” he said. 
To control pollution, Malinee said the BMA was considering collecting extra fees from car owners, especially those who take their vehicles downtown. In addition, she said, the BMA was planning to increase the number of green spots in the capital. 
She added that the BMA would also team up with Transport Minister Chatchart Sithipan to resolve the traffic problem.
“We will hold a meeting inviting relevant agencies to discuss this issue and find measures to alleviate the problem,” she said. 
Malinee said that since the first-car scheme was a policy introduced by the government to boost the automobile industry, the government should look for ways to ease the impact this policy is having on people’s health. 
“We suffered bad pollution from black fumes released by cars 10 years ago and hope this problem does not return, as the number of cars on the roads has risen rapidly over the past two years,” she said. 

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