Stern action pledged as people defy burn ban

Stern action pledged as people defy burn ban

A firefighter combats a blaze set by farmers with plans to turn a lightly wooded area into crop plan. Inset shows the Air Quality Index for Khon Kaen Monday evening. (File photo)
A firefighter combats a blaze set by farmers with plans to turn a lightly wooded area into crop plan. Inset shows the Air Quality Index for Khon Kaen Monday evening. (File photo)

Buri Ram: Officials are adopting a mixed approach to help deal with the toxic haze that has shrouded parts of the province, as local residents continue to ignore the ban on the outdoor burning of waste.

As well as warning local residents about the negative impacts of the haze on their health, local authorities will begin to mete out severe punishments in a bid to help reduce the concentration of hazardous micro pollutants -- especially PM2.5 -- which has been rising significantly around the Northeastern provinces.

The rising level of dust and other micro pollutants is caused by outdoor burning to help dispose of waste generated by sugarcane plantations and general household waste, as well as traditional slash-and-burn farming practices.

Officials have blamed farmers and households who defy the ban on outdoor burning as the "main cause" of the haze problem, and pledged tough action on those who continue such practices.

Nawanit Phonkhen, an official at Buri Ram agriculture office, said that offenders will face jail terms of between 2-15 years, as well as a fine of up to 150,000 baht.

Buri Ram governor Thirawat Wutthikhun ordered all 23 district chiefs to publicise the warnings throughout the province to make people more aware of the health impacts of PM2.5 pollutants, as well as the penalties for violating the ban. Two or three noticeboards will be put up in each district, Mr Nawanit said.

A neighbouring province, Khon Kaen, is also suffering from a significant drop in air quality, although PM2.5 levels had slightly improved as of Monday.

"The pollution warning have been changed from red to orange, but we will continue to closely monitor air quality," said Khon Kaen governor Somsak Changtrakun.

Khon Kaen had reported PM2.5 levels of above 100 microgrammes per cubic metre (µg/m³), although as of Monday the levels have dropped to 89 µg/m³, which is still well above the so-called "safe" threshold of 50 µg/m³.


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