Province’s air quality, fine dust levels stand well beyond Thailand’s safety limits
Thick smog has become a visible threat in Khon Kaen as it struggles with the country’s worst air pollution this week.
The haze was clearly visible in this Northeast province as the level of PM2.5 and PM10 particles hit 102 micrograms and 166mcg per cubic metre of air respectively yesterday, well beyond the safety limit of 50mcg for PM2.5 and 100mcg for PM10.
The overall Air Quality Index (AQI) level in the province, meanwhile, stood at 212, well above Thailand’s safety limit of 100, according to the Pollution Control Department (PCD)’s daily report.
“I think I will need to wear a mask from now on,” a resident of Khon Kaen’s Muang district lamented yesterday.
Fine particulate matter, which is 2.5 microns or less in diameter, poses a serious threat to health and has been described as carcinogenic by the World Health Organisation.
The authorities tried to ease the situation yesterday by spraying water in key areas of Khon Kaen, such as the provincial government complex.
“Many people come to the complex every day and there are several schools nearby,” Deputy Khon Kaen Governor Suthep Maneechot said.
He added that relevant authorities were also seeking cooperation from high-rise building owners to spray water from high floors in a bid to lower the amount of dust.
“We are also trying to curb exhaust fumes and outdoor fires, both of which are main sources of fine dust particles,” Suthep added.
Khon Kaen Governor Somsak Changtragul yesterday also met representatives of sugar factories, sugarcane farmers and the Regional Environment Office 10 to find a way of preventing the burning of sugarcane fields.
Sugarcane farmers often set fire to their fields to clear weeds and make way for easier harvesting. However, such fires have become great contributors to the ongoing smog crisis.
At the meeting, Somsak urged factories to avoid purchasing sugarcane with burn marks and also called on them to help spray water to bring down the dust particles.
With air pollution hitting critical point in many parts of Thailand, the government has also called on neighbouring Myanmar to also curb outdoor fires. The request, made via the latest Thailand-Myanmar Township Border Committee, won a positive response.
Meanwhile, the Central Administrative Court interviewed representatives of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Bangkok Governor Pol General Aswin Kwanmuang and the National Environment Board for two hours yesterday in relation to allegations that they were negligent in addressing the smog crisis.
The grilling was in response to a complaint lodged by Stop Global Warming Association (SGWA) and several Bangkok residents.
“We hope the court will order concrete measures such as planting more trees and banning the felling of trees along roads,” SGWA president Srisuwan Janya said, adding that he expected the court to issue a verdict in the next few days.
Separately, the PCD said yesterday that PM2.5 levels in Bangkok and five nearby provinces were within the safety limit, and though the fine dust particles are expected to increase slightly today, it will still be “safe”.
Elsewhere, the smog crisis was not as serious as in Khon Kaen.
Loei province reported an AQI level of 11, with 55 micrograms of PM2.5 and 81 micrograms of PM10. The Northeast only has three air quality-monitoring stations in Nakhon Ratchasima, Khon Kaen and Loei, while PM2.5 measuring devices are only available in Loei and Khon Kaen.
Chiang Mai province in the North – which is usually enveloped in haze during this time of year – reported safe levels of air pollution.
PM2.5 levels in the North stood between 14 and 88 micrograms, with beyond safety levels cited in Lampang (tambon Phra Baht of Muang district and tambons Sop Pad, Ban Dong and Mae Moh of Mae Mo district) and Phrae (Muang district’s tambon Na Chak).