By Saksit Muttafa,
Prayut, who visited Chiang Mai on Tuesday morning, also said His Majesty the King was concerned about the northern smog crisis and was closely following the situation.
The premier also presented some forest fire-fighting equipment along with facemasks and drinking water at a ceremony at the 33rd Military Circle at Kawila Camp. Some 100 police, Army and forest firefighters attended the event where the premier praised the sacrifices of the operative officials and forest fire-fighting volunteers and asked them to ensure their safety.
Despite reports of high PM2.5 pollution – airborne particulates 2.5 microns or less in diameter – and the visibly smoggy conditions, Prayut and most people at the event did not wear facemasks.
During the ceremony, representatives of a Chiang Mai-based Indian community association donated drinking water and facemasks to the forest firefighters.
Prayut also attended a meeting to follow up on the northern forest fire and smog situation at the Bank of Thailand’s Northern Region Office.
He said the government had all along been working on the problem via the Interior Ministry. Provincial governors, district chiefs as well as related state offices had been instructed to oversee the situation in their jurisdiction and tackle the issue, he said.
Prayut said he came to the meeting in the hope of hearing about the haze-tackling measures being implemented, the progress or result, and the obstacles operative officials encountered.
Promising the government’s backing to officials, especially in term of budgets, the premier said that this issue must be resolved in seven days, including fire-hit forestlands and farmlands as well as the haze-affected city areas.
Meanwhile, the Chiang Mai Air Quality Health Index (CMAQHI) Centre’s website (cmaqhi.org) said the hourly results of PM2.5 in Chiang Mai’s eight stations in the surrounding districts such as Samoeng, Mae Taeng and Sanpathong were dangerously high at around 500 micrograms (mcg) per cubic metre of air.
The Thai safe limit for PM2.5 is 50mcg. As of 11am, CMAQHI said Tambon Samoeng Tai in Samoeng had 531mcg followed by Tambon Kud Chang in Mae Taeng (502mcg). The air quality in both the places was so bad that the devices kept flashing “Beyond AQI”.
The Pollution Control Department put the 24-hour average of PM2.5 at between 39mcg and 238mcg in nine northern provinces. The worst-hit were Tambon Jong Kham in Muang district of Mae Hong Son province (238mcg), Tambon Wiang Phang Kham in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province (145mcg), Wiang in the Muang district of Chiang Rai (144mcg), Chang Pheuk in the Muang district of Chiang Mai (143mcg), Ban Klang in the Muang district of Lamphun province (132mcg) and Huai Khon in Chalerm Phrakiat district of Nan province (122mcg).
The Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency’s fire-monitoring system, citing a satellite image as of 1.36am on Tuesday, said there were 1,969 hot spots in nine northern provinces. Mae Hong Son had the most with 821 hotspots, followed by Chiang Mai (478), Chiang Rai (232), Lampang (116), Tak (89), Nan (77), Phayao (74), Phrae (63), and Lamphun (19).