ALL CONCERNED agencies have joined forces to tackle the capital’s smog problem through stricter enforcement of existing laws, while academics suggested that schools and offices be closed on days when air pollution is severe, as PM2.5 is expected to rise to harmful levels again during this weekend.
Deputy Prime Minister General Chatchai Sarikulya told a press conference yesterday that the public should not panic about the current smog problem in Bangkok, as the air pollution was not as hazardous as is alleged by many international air-quality monitoring websites. He said the authorities are earnestly engaging with the problem.
“During these past few days, we have already implemented some short-term measures to tackle the air pollution such as spraying water, cleaning the roads and making artificial rain.
“We are going to do more by letting all related official agencies ensure stricter enforcement of laws to lower emissions and keep the air clean,” Chatchai said.
“The main focus will be on the transport sector. Police will set up more checkpoints to check exhaust release from the vehicles, while there will be a fuel standard upgrade and replacement of old public buses to ensure that there will be lower emissions from the traffic.”
Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said after discussions with the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry that the Transport Ministry would press four emergency measures to mitigate air pollution.
Arkhom said the first measure would be to order the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) and Transport Co Ltd to check and fix their buses to ensure there was no emission of black-smoke from every transport vehicle.
The second measure is to switch the fuel for all BMTA buses to biodiesel B20 to limit their pollution emission and environmental impact by the end of this month, while acquiring 2,188 clean energy buses to join the BMTA fleet.
The third measure is to let the Expressway and Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand install water sprays at the expressway in Bang Khun Thian district to lower dust and air pollution caused by trucks.
The fourth measure is to suspend the construction of the new mass rapid transit projects on Lat Phrao Road, Srinagarindra Road, Ram-Indra Road and Ramkhamhaeng Road until next Tuesday to reduce the emission of dust from the construction sites.
Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana also ordered random inspections on factories in Bangkok and nearby provinces to make sure that every factory followed the pollution emission standard.
Need for caution, not panic
Meanwhile, Dr Kiat Rakrungtham, deputy rector of Chulalongkorn University, said the alertness among people to the dangers of air pollution was a good thing, but people should not panic. He said health risks from PM2.5 could be reduced by avoiding long exposure to smog on bad air quality days.
“People who are living in areas with high air pollution should always determine the level of air pollution and their state of health before going outside and exposing themselves to air pollution,” Kiat said.
“If they are not in good health or have to stay outside for long periods of time, they should wear a facemask and reduce the time they spend in outdoor activities.”
Dr Chanchai Sittipunt, vice president of Thoracic Society of Thailand, also suggested that as the Air Quality Index (AQI) in Bangkok was currently at orange level, people should limit their outdoor activities and schools and offices should also reduce their operation hours to avoid exposure to air pollution.
Chanchai said if the AQI level worsens to purple or red-brown level, it means air pollution has reached a critical level. At that point, people should avoid all outdoor activities, and schools and offices should be closed until the situation improves.
An AQI level between 101 to 150 is considered orange, while 151 to 200 is red, 201 to 300 is purple, and 301 and above is red-brown.
According to the weather forecast, the air quality in Bangkok will worsen today and will not improve until next Tuesday, due to the calm winds and high pressure area approaching from China.