Mae Hong Son residents have been warned about health risks from haze pollution as the level of small dust particles in the northernmost province has hit dangerously high levels for seven consecutive days.
The Pollution Control Department (PCD) yesterday issued an alert about the hazardous level of dust particles smaller than 10 microns, better known as PM10, which was measured at 176 microgrammes per cubic metre (ug/cu m) yesterday, exceeding the safety level of 120 ug/cu m.
According to PCD records, the PM10 level in Mae Hong Son's Muang district started to deteriorate last Wednesday when the dust level was measured at 142 ug/cu m before increasing to 157 and 219.
Mae Hong Son is the only northern province where PM10 has exceeded the safe level, the PCD said.
The department said people living in haze-affected areas should wear face masks when outdoors. Children, the elderly and people with health problems are advised to stay at home and closely monitor updates from the authorities.
The PCD also asked local authorities to step up forest fire control measures, including imposing a strict ban on burning activities on farmland and in forest areas.
The National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation Department's forest fire control division yesterday reported a total of 1,682 forest fires have occurred over the past six months, damaging more than 17,000 rai of forest land nationwide.
The number of forest fires, however, was lower than during the same period last year, when more than 27,000 rai of forest burnt down.
The most recent major forest fire happened in a peat swamp forest at Hat Chao Mai National Park in Trang province.
The fire started on Sunday and was put out yesterday. A total of 1,200 rai of peat swamp forest was damaged, said the park authorities, who believed the blaze was man-made.
They suspected local people burnt down the bush to allow young grass to grow and turn into pasture land for their cattle.
Forest-fire control officials had to call for back-up from three tambon administration organisations to help douse the blaze at the park, which is one of the top tourist destinations in the South.
"The situation is under control now. We are checking the damage, but roughly 1,200 rai of forest was destroyed," one park official said.
Manoch Wongsuryrat, chief of Hat Chao Mai National Park, said no one was hurt in the three-day bushfire.
Officials had informed tourists about the incident and the blaze did not have any impact on tourists.
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- Writer: Apinya Wipatayotin