Haze fight needs new approach, say experts

Haze fight needs new approach, say experts

Motorists brave the haze in Bangkok yesterday. Similar conditions were reported in Nakhon Ratchasima, where micro-dust levels have exceeded the safe level for five days straight. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Motorists brave the haze in Bangkok yesterday. Similar conditions were reported in Nakhon Ratchasima, where micro-dust levels have exceeded the safe level for five days straight. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Thailand is heading in the wrong direction with its approach to solving PM2.5 microdust and other air pollution problems as measures are not systematic or year-round, according to academics.

Sirima Panyametheekul, a member of the Thailand Air Quality Management (TAQM) coalition of pollution experts, said the weather is a factor and with lower temperatures and an absence of wind, the air pollution problems would get worse.

"Measures need to be in place before the problem begins each year and the weather ceases to be conducive to ventilating PM2.5 and other atmospheric pollutants," she warned.

Prof Thongchai Panswad and Assoc Prof Sirima, lecturers of the Department of Environmental Engineering, Chulalongkorn University, wrote a recent article titled "What must be done to solve the PM2.5 situation in Thailand" which emphasised that inspiring and integrated solutions are needed.

"The authorities' proposed measures have been insufficiently deployed. Speedy action as well as cooperation is urgently needed. Moreover, some ineffective measures which have done little to reduce PM2.5 such as open-air filtration and water spraying from rooftops or drones should no longer be used," they wrote.

"It is also noteworthy that the existing attempts to reduce ambient PM2.5 are principally engineering techniques. In practice, these procedures must be considered alongside economic, social and health issues."

Assoc Prof Sirima said traffic was a major cause of air pollution in Bangkok, but while areas in the South including Phuket produce proportionally less PM2.5, they are affected by pollution blowing in from adjacent provinces.

Meanwhile, the Department of Land Transport (DLT) yesterday reiterated that trucks and buses which emit excessive amounts of black smoke will face heavy fines and be banned from the roads until their owners rectify the problem.

Fines of up to 5,000 baht have been given the green light, said DLT director-general Chirute Visalachitra.

From October 2019, which marked the beginning of the fiscal year 2020, until Jan 21, 689,333 trucks and buses were inspected.

Of them, 8,762 vehicles were found to be in breach of emissions guidelines.

Owners of vehicles with smoky exhausts but where emissions do not exceed legal limits will be issued with a warning first, followed by harsher punishment for further offences, he said.

In a further change aimed at battling air pollution, vehicle inspections would now be carried out on the spot to avoid unnecessary trips into the DLT workshop in the city.

Registration renewal could also be done at freight terminals on the outskirts of town to help keep trucks from making the trip into city and compounding pollution problems.

The results of these evaluations could see registration renewal applications refused, depending on the state of the vehicles, according to Mr Chirute.

The DLT also plans boost the number of repair shops and garages authorised to inspect the vehicles' condition on the department's behalf, he said.

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