TEST YOURSELF: Why so hazy?

TEST YOURSELF: Why so hazy?

Composite showing Chiang Mai city as seen from Doi Suthep on March 5 and March 10 2021, when the PM2.5 level was 70.9 and 114.4 respectively. Photo by Gary Boyle
Composite showing Chiang Mai city as seen from Doi Suthep on March 5 and March 10 2021, when the PM2.5 level was 70.9 and 114.4 respectively. Photo by Gary Boyle

Science explains the sources of Thailand’s PM2.5 pollution

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Read the following story by Gary Boyle from the Bangkok Post. Then, answer the questions that follow.

Chiang Mai spent several days this month as the most polluted city on the planet, with PM2.5 levels reaching 226 microgrammes per cubic meter (μg/m³).

Pollution levels peak in northern Thailand during the burning season -- normally in March and April -- when crop waste burning and forest fires fill the air with smoke, creating a haze so bad that Doi Suthep mountain, on the western edge of the city, cannot be seen.

However, there is now more data available to understand the causes and sources of the smoke, which could help provide a solution.

A report released in February by Greenpeace attributed 14,000 deaths in Thailand in 2020 to air pollution. "PM2.5 is more related to adverse health effects because it's so small that it can enter the bloodstream, similar to smoking," Chiang Mai cardiologist Dr Rungsrit Kanjanavanit said, adding that every 22μg/m³ of PM2.5 is equivalent to everyone -- including babies and old people -- smoking one cigarette.

The Pollution Control Department said the main cause of the northern haze is the large amount of burning on farmland and that the farming of corn is a huge business in the north.

The harvesting of Hed Thob mushrooms is another factor, as hunters burn the forest floor to make picking easier. While there is a local market for the mushrooms, the export market is large -- an estimated 2,120 tonnes in 2019 -- especially to China.

The Charoen Pokphand Group (CP) is Thailand's largest agri-business corporation and grows a lot of corn in northern Thailand.

In response to questions from the Bangkok Post on how the company controls pollution and improves the environment, CP sent a document listing more than 20 CP projects since 2015. However, no information was provided on the length or results of any of the projects.

A scientist from Chiang Mai University said that during 2010 to 2015, 80% of the pollution in Chiang Mai was from Myanmar. Greenpeace blames major Thai farming corporations for investing in Myanmar’s Shan State, which has many fires in corn fields.

Greenpeace wants to be able to identify a hotspot in Shan State and see who owns that land or who supplies the corn production to that area and make them more accountable for the haze.

For those involved, the solution comes down to one factor -- political will. "The government needs to protect the basic right of clean air, that's for sure," Dr Rungsrit said.

Section 1: Write the correct answer in the space provided.
1. Which months have the most smoke in northern Thailand? …………….
2. How many deaths were caused by pollution in Thailand in 2020? …………….
3. How much PM2.5 is the same as smoking a cigarette? …………….
4. What amount of Thai mushrooms were sold overseas in 2019? …………….
5. Which part of Myanmar has many fires?…………..
6. Who does Dr Rungsrit think should deal with pollution? …………….

Section 2: Read the following passage. Then, fill in the blanks with the correct words from the choices given.
"Short-term, we're working on …7… out the fires,” said Chiang Mai’s Vice Governor. “Long-term, we're looking at changing the corn …8… into something that has economic value. Last year the government …9… all burning, but now the burning areas are limited and the goal for this year is to …10… burning by 25%.”

7. __A. giving             __B. having                __C. putting
8. __A. waist                 __B. waste               __C. wasted
9. __A. bans            __B. banning               __C. banned
10. __A. reduced            __B. reduction                __C. reduce

Section 3: Find words that match the following definitions.
11. fine dust or smoke in the air stopping you from seeing things ……………
12. unwanted material left after something is used ……………
13. a heart disease doctor ……………
14. picking and collecting crops or plants …………

Answers: 1. March and April. 2. 14,000. 3. 22μg/m³. 4. 2,120 tonnes. 5. Shan State. 6. the government. 7. c. 8. b. 9. c. 10. c. 11. haze. 12. waste. 13. cardiologist. 14. harvesting.

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