By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
Health Department director-general Dr Panpimol Wipulakorn said Thailand had pledged at a World Health Organisation conference that it would firmly place the air pollution problem on the national agenda and lower the prevalence of sickness and fatalities from pollution.
The WHO held the First Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health in Geneva last week.
Panpimol said Thailand’s commitment to fight air pollution was to comply with one of WHO’s five prominent agendas from 2019 to 2023 on mitigating health impacts from air pollution and climate change.
“Thailand’s Public Health Ministry and Natural Resources and Environment Ministry are the core agencies to push air pollution mitigation measures both at the domestic level and regional level, so as to prevent people’s health from being adversely affected by air pollution and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030,” she said.
“We are now working with all related agencies, like Pollution Control Department and Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, to enhance their capacity to prevent and tackle the air-pollution problem and comprehensively build an air-quality monitoring and air-pollution warning network.”
According to the WHO, every year about 8 million people around the world die from air pollution, as it has been scientifically proven that prolonged exposure to polluted air negatively affected health in the long term, including causing cancer.
The WHO, however, emphasised that health threats from air pollution were preventable, hence it was important that every country and all stakeholders worked together to preserve good health and the well being of the people by combating air pollution.
PCD director-general Pralong Damrongthai revealed that as the direct agency to mitigate air pollution, the department this year would introduce many strict, new measures during the upcoming haze season in the northern region and the Bangkok metropolitan area.
“This is the first year that we are using PM2.5 [particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns] as another air-quality indicator in order to improve the accuracy of our air-pollution monitoring and warning system,” Pralong said.
“We are also working with local authorities in the areas that have chronic air-pollution problem such as the northern provinces and Bangkok to lower air pollution at its source and collaborate with neighbouring countries to mitigate the transboundary haze problem.”
He disclosed that Natural Resources and Environment Minister General Surasak Karn-janarat will visit Mae Sot district in Tak province next month to discuss with Myanmar authorities the transboundary haze issue. He will announce the air pollution mitigation measures and impose a burning ban for this haze season in the North.
Meanwhile, in the Bangkok metropolitan area, Pralong said the air pollution was due to a combination of outdoor burning and heavy traffic volume. The PCD is now working with the BMA to issue restrictions on the movement of trucks in the Bangkok inner city and a burning ban in five nearby provinces to reduce the capital’s seasonal air-pollution problem.
The northern provinces and Bangkok face severe air pollution problems during the dry season every year. This year, as the dry season has already started, the air quality in Bangkok has started to deteriorate, with daily average levels of PM2.5 in Wang Thong Lang district yesterday rising to 43 micrograms per cubic metre of air, well above the WHO’s safe limit of 25 micrograms.