Chiang Mai was ranked as the third most air-polluted city in the world on Wednesday, with an average PM2.5 dust level higher than 200.
The northern province is battling with a critical level of air pollution due to wildfire smoke, with the average amount of PM2.5 exceeding the safe level at all four air quality monitoring stations in the municipal area on Wednesday.
On the website of AirVisual, Chiang Mai was ranked the third most polluted in the world as of 11am on Wednesday, after Lahore in Pakistan and New Delhi in India.
Some 928 hotspots were detected across 17 northern provinces on Wednesday morning, according to deputy commander of the 3rd Army Region Maj Gen Thanadpol Kosaisewee, who is the deputy chief of a command tackling air pollution problems in the region.
In Tak, PM2.5 and PM10 exceeded the safe level for four consecutive days, affecting people’s health and road visibility.
On Wednesday, PM2.5 and PM10 in the province were measured at 114 and 171 µg/m3 — above health-hazard levels — in Mae Sot district. People were told to avoid all outdoor activities and stay away from areas with high air pollution.
Tack governor Pongrat Piromrat said the province had laid out measures to prevent forest fires and prohibit burning for two months starting from March 1. Those who burned in forests or were found to carry hunting equipment would be charged by forest patrol officers, the governor warned.
Director-General of the Department of Health Suwanchai Wattanayingcharoen said the tropical storms from March 1-4 in the upper part of the country would help reduce PM2.5 in Bangkok and its vicinity, the Central Plains, the East and the lower North from March 5-7.
However, some areas in the North, the Central Plains and the Northeast might experience more air pollution due to outdoor burning in the country and smoke from neighbouring countries, he said.
The doctor advised people to protect themselves by wearing a face mask every time they venture outside and keep abreast of the air pollution situation on the official website and application of the Department of Pollution Control.
HOW ABOUT THE ROYAL COAST?
It’s not unusual for local social media pages to be asked by expats in Chiang Mai about their concerns over pollution levels they are experiencing and how they may fare with a move to Hua Hin. The responses have typically been very encouraging, but that’s changing.
Last year’s smog season, when Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya and the Eastern Seaboard were badly affected, our region was spared most of the time. This year, no such luck. The haze is extending its borders, creeping further south.
Despite the local municipalities declaring a tough stance on illegal burning, posts showing graphic photos of fires and the lack of any meaningful response by local authorities abound.
In a letter to the editor, one Hua Hin resident had this to say:
“The air quality in Hua Hin has been awful recently my IQAir monitor registered 170 in my home–with windows open–early this morning, well within the red/unhealthy range).
Thai people generally think the air is good here, but that is not at all the case at this time of year. Maybe advertising this fact to potential tourists would be the only way to pressure the government into enforcing a ban on burning sugar cane residue (and other crops)?
I am in Khao Takiab, just a one-minute walk from the beach, and the air is horrible here. In this relatively cool season we have to keep the windows closed and run an air purifier. So much for enjoying the fresh sea breeze….”
Attention to illegal burning hasn’t featured in the election manifesto of any candidate in the current mayoral election campaign but remedies are already in place when illegal burns are reported.
Local authority can send a warning letter to the landowner to stop burning and can also specify methods to prevent nuisances that may occur in the future. Ignoring a warning is a crime with penalties of imprisonment not exceeding 1 month or a fine not exceeding 2,000 Baht or both available.
But if the burning had caused injury to other persons or is likely to be hazardous to the public’s health or damage to property, offenders may be guilty under Section 220 of the Penal Code. This offence is punishable by imprisonment not exceeding 7 years and a fine not more than 14,000 Baht.
If the fire has actually caused danger to other property or person, the offender will be punished with a heavier punishment under Section 218 or Section 224, as the case may be, with the maximum penalty of death available.
If the burning on your own property but the results in a fire on another person’s property and conditions of strong wind made the conditions dangerous, the offender would be guilty a more serious offence and penalty.
Notification of any problems related to illegal burning can be made to the Division of Public Health and Environment Hua Hin Municipality, phone 032 511 047 ext. 107 during working hours.