Govt mulls pollution crackdown
Tough measures will be taken, says Prayut
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered government agencies to take decisive action to fight the air pollution that has plagued Bangkok and its surrounding provinces in recent days.
The PM said the government had continuously implemented measures against the surging PM2.5 levels but the problem had deteriorated due to the current weather.
He urged commuters to use public transport as much as possible and said the government would consider introducing alternate-day private travel only in the capital.
The government's focus was on suppressing black emissions and the use of vehicles whose licences had expired, he said.
As for agricultural burning, one of the main causes of the PM2.5 crisis, Gen Prayut said the problem lay with farmers lacking the proper equipment for non-burning waste disposal.
The government would inform a sub-regional committee of the current air pollution problem in Thailand since the sub-region's climate was inter-connected, he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon has instructed the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry to work with the Interior Ministry, the Transport Ministry, the Industry Ministry, police, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) and the Public Health Ministry to implement agreed measures, enforce the law vigorously and continuously tackle the worsening air pollution.
Gen Prawit has instructed the Interior Ministry to take action against outdoor burning by farmers and work with the Industry Ministry to inspect pollution emissions at industrial plants, said his spokesman, Lt Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich.
Traffic police in Bangkok have been told to set up checkpoints on roads in congested areas to check vehicles emitting black fumes, Lt Gen Kongcheep said.
Meanwhile, Bangkok governor Pol Gen Aswin Kwanmuang said the BMA had asked the Highways Department to continuously wash roads in an effort to reduce excessive PM2.5 levels in many areas across the city.
The BMA has told all 437 schools under its jurisdiction to skip outdoor morning assembly and large construction projects have also been ordered to stop for the next two to three, the governor said.
The BMA's urgent measures to tackle the ongoing air pollution include spraying water to wash away tree leaves and along roads, as well as cleaning public property such as bus stops, postboxes and pedestrian bridges.
Construction site companies are being urged to spray water into the air to prevent dust from spreading and City Hall has begun spraying water in the capital's streets.
People working outdoors are being strongly advised to wear masks.
BMA spokesman Pol Capt Pongsakorn Kwanmuang said Bangkok's district authorities and police are working together to vigorously enforce the law to prevent pollution spreading in the city after PM2.5 levels rose to an average of 74.6mcg/cm from 60mcg/cm on Dec 14.
The safe level in Thailand is 50mcg/cm, higher than most countries. Bangkok and surrounding provinces had excessive PM2.5 levels in 66 districts on Tuesday.
The safe AQI threshold is 100, and 190 is in the range of unsafe for health.
Pol Capt Pongsakorn warned that the smog would probably prevail in Bangkok for another two months.
At construction sites, the BMA is only allowing work that does not create dust particles, such as interior decoration and painting, and is even considering whether to close schools temporarily.
The Pollution Control Department on Tuesday reported Bangkok's highest PM2.5 level of 118mcg/cm on Din Daeng Road in Din Daeng district, followed by 102 on Charoen Nakhon Road in Klong San district, 100 on Ma Charoen Road in Nong Khaem district, 94 on Srinakarin Road in Prawet district and Tha Phra intersection in Bangkok Yai district, and 93 on Sam Sen Road in Phra Nakhon district.
The department also said air pollution in Samut Prakan, Nonthaburi, Samut Sakhon and Pathum Thani has worsened due to PM 2.5 dust particles.
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Varawut Silpa-archa said he had asked the Agricultural and Cooperatives Ministry to prohibit agricultural burning for the next three days in Bangkok and surrounding areas.