10/26/2023, 15.23
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Thai authorities try to curb air pollution

by Steve Suwannarat

The 24-hour standard for particulates has been lowered to 37.5 micrograms per cubic metre of air (μg/m3). Efforts are underway to curb seasonal agricultural residue burning, which also occurs in neighbouring Myanmar. According to some estimates, poor air quality causes 32,000 premature deaths per year in Thailand.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Air pollution is choking Thailand's main cities and the government is trying to tackle the problem, which goes back a long way and has been very hard to manage, starting in the capital Bangkok.

The extensive seasonal open air burning of agricultural residue in farming areas compounds the problem, increasing risks for human health, with cross-border pollution, especially from Myanmar, an additional factor.

Thailand's Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is drafting a plan to deal with the substantial increase in PM2.5 levels, which are expected to rise in the coming weeks as temperatures drop.

This would involve measures aimed at reducing by up to 50 per cent government-regulated farmland and areas of natural conservation as well as cut the amount of particulates from industrial and vehicle emissions by up to 40 per cent of the average recorded in recent years, so as to curb by a third the number of days in which they exceed the limits considered tolerable.

Last June, the Pollution Control Department (PCD) under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment lowered the safe level to 37.5μg/m3 per day before triggering an alert, betting on the growing popularity of electric cars and more precise and persuasive information spread via special apps and by farming associations.

Obviously, very little can be done about the weather conditions that favour the accumulation of fine dust during the transition from the rainy season to winter and later spring.

Studies by independent agencies estimated that exposure to PM2.5 resulted in approximately 32,000 premature deaths in Thailand in 2019, while Greenpeace’s figure is 29,000 for 2021. The study covers less than half of Thailand's 76 provinces.

In the first four months of this year, nearly three million Thais sought medical treatment for air-pollution problems.

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