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Going outdoors ‘still dangerous’

Mar 19. 2019
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By Natthawat Laping,
Kriangkrai Rattana,
Nisanart Kanwalwong
The Nation

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Chiang Mai remains smog-bound, but falls four places in list of world’s most polluted cities

Thought Chinag Mai has finally dropped four places in the list for the most-polluted city on the planet, pollution in the northern capital was still very high yesterday scoring 182 in the air quality index (AQI) on airvisual.com. 

As of 10am yesterday, the website reported that Chiang Mai’s AQI stood at 182 and it had a PM2.5 level of 114.7 micrograms (mcg) per cubic metre of air, after Delhi (208mcg), Beijing (198mcg) and Lahore (186mcg).

Meanwhile, the Pollution Control Department cited lower but still unsafe levels of PM2.5 – airborne particulates of 2.5 microns or less in diameter – in most parts of the nine northern provinces, ranging from 43 to 143mcg. 

Enveloped in thick haze

The department, measuring 24-hour averages of PM2.5, put the tambon of Wiang Phang Kham in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district at 143mcg, followed by tambon Jong Kham in Mae Hong Son’s Muang district at 105mcg and tambon Wiang of Chiang Rai’s Muang district at 95mcg. 

Also enveloped in thick haze were tambons Chang Pheuk (85mcg) and Sri Phum (71mcg) in Muang Chiang Mai; Nai Wiang (80mcg) in Muang Nan; and Mae Pa (73mcg) in Tak’s Mae Sot district.

The safe limit of PM2.5 in Thailand is 50mcg, which is double the amount recommended by the World Health Organisation, and the safe level for AQI is 100. 

The high-level of haze in Chiang Rai reportedly stemmed from the many forest fires, both in the province and from nearby areas. 

Yesterday, a 500-rai (80-hectare) section of forested land overlapping tambon Tan Tawan of Chiang Rai’s Phan district and tambon Wiang Hao in Phayao’s Mae Chai district caught on fire, which continued to rage while officials and volunteers – having trekked two hours into the forest – were trying to put it out as of press time. 

Fifty villagers in the two tambons also hurriedly built a firebreak to prevent the spread of the blaze, which was suspected of having been inadvertently started by villagers who had entered the area to collect forest products.

Chiang Mai Public Health Office deputy director Dr Waranyoo Jamnongprasartporn yesterday revealed that, in the past two months, more than 90,000 people had sought medical aid for symptoms that can be associated with smog. 

From January 6 to March 16, 91,182 people sought help after suffering from four ailments associated with, or which could flare up due to haze, he said.

They comprised 48,037 respiratory-disorder patients, 38,857 heart and coronary-artery disease patients, 2,661 with eye inflammation and 1,627 people with inflamed skin. 

Waranyoo also urged those working outdoors to wear a facemask, drink plenty of water and contact a doctor if they develop an abnormal health condition, while others should refrain from staying outdoors during high haze.

Meanwhile, the Chiang Mai Natural Resource and Environment Office director, Saratcha Suriyakul Na Ayudhaya, said yesterday that a satellite image at 2.42am showed 20 hot spots in Chiang Mai, while the province’s 25 districts had seen a total of 708 hot spots during March 1-18. 

He said that forest-fire damage in Chiang Mai province for January and February had totalled 174,169 rai – a majority (159,157 rai) of which was conserved forestland. The remainder affected general woodlands, land plots conserved for farming under the Agricultural Land Reform Office, farmlands and the areas along highways.

As the province had implemented a ban on outdoor burning from March 1 to April 30, the authorities have, so far, punished three people for violations, he said.

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