PM searching for haze solution

PM searching for haze solution

Suggests biodiesel use, school closures

Clockwise from left: Our school children in anti-smog masks, an Air Force BT-67 fire-fighting plane drops water over Don Mueang airport, and police assist land transport officers to confirm a lorry is emitting visible exhaust fumes. (Photos by Patipat Janthong, Pornprom Satrabhaya, Apichit Jinakul)
Clockwise from left: Our school children in anti-smog masks, an Air Force BT-67 fire-fighting plane drops water over Don Mueang airport, and police assist land transport officers to confirm a lorry is emitting visible exhaust fumes. (Photos by Patipat Janthong, Pornprom Satrabhaya, Apichit Jinakul)

The use of more environmentally friendly B20 biodiesel and temporary school closures in critically haze-affected areas are among various proposals pitched by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha as the government ramps up efforts to tackle fine dust particles that have blanketed Bangkok.

Asking people not to panic, Gen Prayut announced Tuesday plans for a meeting on Wednesday of agencies to discuss joining forces and come up with a suitable solution to the haze. He said his deputy was told to chair the meeting.

Gen Prayut said the main cause of the air pollution was exhaust fumes from vehicles.

He said he had ordered City Hall and the Transport Ministry to find ways to have motorists change to more environmentally friendly B20 Biodiesel, adding that the Energy Ministry was also told to accelerate the production of this kind of fuel.

He said stringent law enforcement must be carried out against motorists whose vehicles emit black exhaust smoke.

"If they are found, they must be impounded," said Gen Prayut. He also instructed relevant agencies to deal with dust that comes from construction sites and crop-burning.

Referring to proposals to suspend classes, the premier said the current situation does not yet require this. "However, in critically at-risk areas, this decision would be the duty of the Education Ministry," said Gen Prayut.

Thalerngsak Phetsuwan, deputy secretary-general of the Pollution Control Department (PCD), said if the volume of fine dust stays in the red for a whole day and runs for three or four consecutive days, other measures could be rolled out, including banning the use of diesel vehicles and prohibiting certain vehicles on even and odd days.

Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB) deputy chief Jirasan Kaewsang-ek said large diesel-powered vehicles have been banned from entering inner Bangkok during rush hours.

Regarding other times, cooperation would be sought with the drivers of such vehicles to refrain from entering inner zones unless absolutely necessary.

Police set up checkpoints Tues to inspect trucks and other diesel vehicles before they entered inner Bangkok between 10am and 3pm.

Normally, lorries are prohibited from central districts from 5am-10am and 6pm-9pm. A group of people initiated an online petition, calling on the government to adopt long-term measures.

Meanwhile, levels of haze dropped in the city following Tuesday morning's rain. People in the capital woke up to rain in various districts including Yannawa, Bang Kholaem, Sathon, Bang Rak, Samphanthawong, Bangkok Noi, Thon Buri and Rat Burana.

According to the Thai Meteorological Department, the rain was caused by a southeasterly front that brought showers from the Gulf of Thailand to Bangkok.

The department also indicated a new cold front from China would reach Thailand either today or tomorrow, which would bring rain to the capital and Central Plains.

A rainmaking operation by the Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation Department also kicked off while the air force began releasing a fine aqueous mist over the capital.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health called on the public not to panic as the volume of PM 2.5 had not reached the critical level of more than 200 microgrammes per cubic metre (µg/m³).

"I would say that people should be aware and be prepared for PM 2.5 exposure, but they should not panic. If the micro dust is above 200 µg/m³, all measures under the crisis case management system will be implemented, such as vehicle bans, school closures or bans on other outdoor activities," said Panpimol Wipulakorn, director-general of the department.


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