Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Planes, trucks spray water to soak up Bangkok’s smog

Jan 14. 2019
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By The Nation

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WITH AIR pollution in Greater Bangkok threatening the health of its residents since last Thursday, relevant authorities are at work to offer temporary relief.

To date, they have resolved to clean roads more often, spray water over Greater Bangkok’s sky to try to produce artificial rain, and enforce strict laws against vehicles emitting black exhaust fumes. 

“Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Grisada Boonrach is concerned for Bangkok people,” Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation Department director-general Surasee Kittimonthon said yesterday.

“We will try to create artificial rain, which will help lower the amount of airborne dust, as soon as possible.”

Records show that for many consecutive days the amount of PM2.5 – airborne dust particles 2.5 microns in diameter or less –far exceed the safe level of 50 micrograms per cubic metre of air during daytime.

In fact, the PM2.5 level has recently been double the country’s designated “safe limit” in Bangkok and its adjacent provinces. 

Several concerned citizens were seen wearing facemasks in the capital yesterday, lucky enough to grab the protective gear before shops ran out of stocks.

Several stores have already announced that masks were sold out.

According to Surasee, rainmaking operations may be possible between today and Saturday in spite of limitations. Bangkok’s inner area is a no-flight zone and the capital’s relative humidity is rather low, reducing the chances of success. Crops in several suburban areas will also be damaged if the seeding efforts do succeed.

“But we are going to do our best,” he said. 

Starting from last night, 60 water trucks from the Royal Thai Army (RTA) and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) sprayed water on the capital’s roads with the heaviest traffic. At 5am today, 20 more trucks are expected to repeat the exercise to reduce dust in the air.

“We will spray water on roads until January 16,” RTA chief General Apirach Kongsompong said.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 7 million people die yearly because of exposure to both outdoor and household air pollution. In 2013 it classified PM2.5 as a carcinogen, noting that the tiny particles easily enter the respiratory system and blood vessels to cause harm.

Royal Thai Air Force spokesman Air Marshal Pongsak Semachai said two Basler BT-67 planes were called to Bangkok for the mission of spreading water over Bangkok’s sky. 

“It can spray about 3,000 litres of water per flight,” he said. The water will be clean and will not affect people’s daily lives, he added. 

BMA Environment Office director Chatree Wattanakhajorn said relevant authorities would also enforce a ban on outdoor fires, crack down on vehicles emitting black exhaust fumes, strictly control dust from construction sites and improve traffic flow.

The director-general of the Internal Trade Department, Wichai Pochanakit, meanwhile warned shops against overcharging or hoarding masks. 

“We will keep a look-out. Offenders face a fine of up to Bt140,000 and/or a maximum seven-year jail term,” he said.

He urged people to alert his department via Hotline 1569 if they find any offender. 

For advice on health, residents are advised to call 1422 or call 1669.

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