Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Yesterday a wave of pollution carried by the Chao Phraya River arrived in Bangkok. Meanwhile the forest fire blazing for over two weeks shows no sign of abating as it fills the air with ash and dangers dust in the North of the country, destroying its’ budding tourism.
On the night of March 11th tens of thousands of fish died in the Ang Thong River for causes as yet unknown (suspicions surround the factories of Pa Moke). The polluted waters have since reached the river Ayutthaya, on the threshold of Bangkok. The government has attempted to dilute the water by opening the dams at Pasak Cholasit and Rama VI, but authorities have requested citizens of Bangkok, Pathum Thani and Nonthaburi not to use tap or river water. The people show little concern for the polluted water; some people have even eaten fish and shrimp from the rivers in question. Health Ministry analysis of the dead fish has revealed that there are no substances dangerous to humans. The water in the Ang Thong and Ayutthaya now rivers results normal.
Meanwhile the devastating forest fire blazing close to the border with Laos and Myanmar shows no sign of abating. For miles around the air is unbreathable, filled with dangerous dust and smog, forcing the population – millions of people – to wear masks and planes to cancel flights for lack of visibility. The areas of Chiang Ray (yesterday a state of natural disaster was declared), Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son, Nan and Lamping are worst affected. Inhabitants say that air is thick and difficult to breath; it irritates the throat and blocks vision. The Pollution Control Department (PCD) reported yesterday that the level of dust particles smaller than 10 microns in Chiang Mai's air had reached 284 micrograms per cubic metre. The standard level for these particles in the air is 120 micrograms per cubic metre. Currently, provincial authorities have limited power to tackle the crisis (but other sources put it at 383mg/mc at the famous Yupparatch Wittayalai School in central Chiang Mai). Minister for health Mongkol na Songkhla, has banned open air activities.
Forest fires are normal fair in the area during the dry period of February/March, but experts observe that this year cold air drafts from China create high pressure, making the air thicker and blocking smoke dispersal. The cloud of smog and dust has also hit Laos and Myanmar and it is feared it will remain in the area through to April. Emergency measures have been put in place, for instance firemen are cent to the urban centres to spray water in the air to increase humidity. The Kasikorn research Centre estimates that the Tourism industry in Chiang Mai, Chiang Ray and Mae Hong Son will loose over 2 billion bath (61 million dollars).