Construction halted to curb toxic smog

Construction halted to curb toxic smog

This electric train construction project (foreground) was halted Wednesday, as the haze eased slightly and revealed parts of the Bangkok skyline. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)
This electric train construction project (foreground) was halted Wednesday, as the haze eased slightly and revealed parts of the Bangkok skyline. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

Construction of electric train projects in Bangkok has been halted for seven days as the government scrambles to combat the toxic haze shrouding the capital.

Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said Wednesday the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA) was instructed to tell contractors to put on hold activities that whip up dust until next Tuesday.

They also need to clean construction sites and nearby roads, he said.

Lorries entering and leaving construction sites must have their wheels washed down too, he said.

Building work, including the laying of construction foundations, for the Orange, Pink and Yellow lines are causing increased dust levels, he said, adding that Chaeng Watthana, Srinakarin, Lat Phrao, Ramkhamhaeng and Ram Intra roads have been hit hard by the pollution.

Referring to other measures, Mr Arkhom said 2,075 diesel-powered city buses would have their engine lubricating oil changed within two days to prevent them belching black exhaust fumes.

The Department of Land Transport will send out 18 teams to check on the condition of buses. If they emit black smoke, they will not be stopped in their tracks, he said.

By next month, the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority plans to use more environmentally friendly B20 biodiesel for its buses, the minister added.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said the air quality in Bangkok has improved and there is no need at the moment to halt classes in schools.

Completion of some electric train projects over the next two or three years will help ease the dust problem, he said.

The volume of fine particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres, known as PM2.5, dropped to a range of between 41 and 62 microgrammes per cubic metre (µg/m³), according to readings taken by 10 air quality stations in Bangkok at 6pm on Wednesday. The so-called safety limit is 50 µg/m³.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment also floated the idea of letting staff at state agencies in Bangkok work from home to help combat air pollution.

The proposal was brought up Wednesday at a meeting of agencies regarding the dust problem plaguing the city.

"We will propose the idea to Deputy Prime Minister Chatchai Sarikulya who will chair the meeting on PM2.5 today," Mr Wijarn said.

"The idea will be kept in reserve for a crisis situation only," he said.

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