As smog returns to alarming levels, the Environment Ministry touts its action plan
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment reassured the public on Friday that it is implementing a comprehensive strategy to reduce air pollution, a day after smog surged to dangerous levels in 17 provinces in the North again.
There were 2,278 fires in Thailand on Thursday and more than half (1,516) were in the North, according to the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency.
On Friday, the level of PM2.5 air pollution reached 326 micrograms per cubic metre of air, more than six times higher than Thailand’s maximum safe level, according to air-quality monitoring stations in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district.
Long-term exposure to PM2.5 can be fatal. It refers to fine dust in the air, technically particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter.
The environment ministry said on Friday that the main causes of the pollution are setting farm land afire, wildfires, and smog drifting in from neighbouring counties.
The government has not been negligent but has paid close attention to air pollution, the ministry said.
Besides implementing an action plan for the “solution to air pollution and dust problems”, it has made efforts to address pollution at all levels of government, it said.
Nationally, it has eight short-term measures to reduce air pollution as well as 11 long-term measures that include preventing wildfires in 17 northern provinces. The latter will be implemented from 2024 to 2027.
The eight short-term measures are:
1. Forests at risk of wildfires must be closed to people except for well-equipped firefighting staff who will be deployed to prevent fires or extinguish them.
2. Provincial authorities must announce bans on fires.
3. Factories must not harvest sugar cane by burning.
4. More regulations for trucks in cities need to be implemented.
5. More serious punishment for wrongdoers needs to be imposed.
6. The agricultural ministry has been asked to expand the royal rainmaking project when pollution levels rise.
7. The Ministry of Public Health has been asked to provide people with equipment and medicine to protect them from pollution.
8. All relevant sectors are ordered to report their progress.
The ministry also opened a centre for haze and wildfire prevention in the North, supervised by the Commander of the 3rd Army.
The ministry has instructed provincial offices of Natural Resources and Environment to work closely with governors to monitor fires.
Through the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, Thailand has asked its neighbours to monitor wildfires within their boundaries and refrain from open-land burning, the ministry said.
Officials have also urged members of the public to inform them if they see anyone setting a fire in a forest by calling 1362 or 1784 at any time.
People who live in areas where air pollution is high have been asked to refrain from outdoor activities and wear protective face masks, the ministry said.
The government has also provided the public with health advice on websites and Facebook, the ministry said.