By THE NATION
WITH PM2.5 at dangerous levels in Phayao province for several days, aggravated by forest fires, provincial governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn has ordered disaster prevention and mitigation officials to ask industrial factories, whose activities generate PM2.5 dust – airborne particulates 2.5 microns or less in diameter – to suspend work for one or two days until the situation returns to normal.
Narongsak also issued an urgent letter to Phayao police, calling for strict prosecution of anyone found violating the outdoor burning ban that runs through April 15.
A Pollution Control Department (PCD) air quality station in Tambon Ban Tom in the province’s Muang district showed dangerously high levels of PM2.5 – 67 micrograms per cubic metre of air – as of 9am yesterday, well beyond the Thai safe limit of 50mcg. A greyish-white smog covered Phayao, prompting residents to wear face masks and glasses to prevent eye irritation when going out.
Phayao also continued to battle multiple forest fires that are contributing to the haze issue. Dok Kham Tai district chief Thewa Panyaboon had his deputy Kasidir Inpan lead 40 forest fire fighters and related officials to extinguish a large blaze in Huai Ngu Leum and another in Huai Ta Sae in Tambon San Khong, both thought to have been started by poachers. They managed to put out the flames but not before they damaged 20 rai of forestland.
Meanwhile, Chiang Mai Governor Supachai Iamsuwan, who is under attack for his administration’s perceived failure to ease the smog situation, has invited related parties to discuss how best to tackle the haze. The Chiang Mai Forum is being held at the International Exhibition and Convention Centre in Muang district from 3pm yesterday.
The governor has faced an online campaign at Change.org, seeking his removal from office for his “ineffectiveness in tackling the haze” after Chiang Mai’s Air Quality Index (AQI) topped 400 on both Saturday and Sunday, giving Chiang Mai the unenviable title of planet’s most polluted city for days. As of 11am yesterday, more than 35,000 names had been added and the target was raised to 50,000.
Chiang Mai continued to top Airvisual.com’s “World AQI Ranging” at 11am yesterday with an AQI of 214 (PM2.5 level of 164mcg) followed by Dhaka, Bangladesh, with an AQI of 203 (PM2.5 at 152.3mcg) and Lahore , Pakistan, with an AQI of 200 (PM2.5 at 149.6 mcg).
In the meantime, the PCD reported at 9am yesterday that PM2.5 levels in the past 24 hours in nine northern provinces had improved from the previous day and now ranged from 34-199 micrograms per cubic metre of air. The areas that still had dangerous levels of PM2.5 dust included Chiang Rai’s Tambon Wiang Phang Kham (199mcg) in Mae Sai district and Tambon Wiang (110mcg) in Muang district ; Tambon Jongkham (133mcg) in Muang Mae Hong Son; Chiang Mai’s Tambon Chang Pheuk (105mcg), Tambon Sri Phum (75mcg), and Tambon Suthep (82mcg) in Muang district as well as Tambon Chang Kerng (56mcg) in Mae Chaem district; Tambon Ban Klang (96mcg) in Muang Lamphun; Tambon Nai Wiang (52mcg) in Muang district of Nan province and Tambon Huai Kon (103mcg) in Chalerm Phrakiat district; and Tambon Mae Pa (76mcg) in Tak’s Mae Sot district.