Dark skies on agenda as haze hits early
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Dark skies on agenda as haze hits early

The Bangkok skyline is obscured by haze after a surge in PM2.5 dust pollution on Jan 1. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
The Bangkok skyline is obscured by haze after a surge in PM2.5 dust pollution on Jan 1. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Thailand will enter its annual haze season earlier than usual due to higher levels of accumulated microdust in the atmosphere, according to the Department of Pollution Control.

Preeyaporn Suwanaket, the department's newly appointed chief, said that air quality in the capital and nearby provinces yesterday was moderate but still prone to affect health, which is in contrast to the northern and northeastern regions that have good air quality.

However, the air quality in Metropolitan Bangkok and lower northern provinces is likely to get worse by next Friday due to high air pressure.

The major source of air pollutants is from heavy traffic in the capital and agricultural burning in provinces surrounding the capital, she said.

According to the department, there were 1,207 hotspots in the country between Dec 29, last year and Jan 3, 2024, of which 38% were found in paddy fields, 13% on sugar cane farms, 6% on corn farms and 11% in forests.

For preparation against hazardous fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5), she said that the department, as the centre of communication to deal with air pollution, will work with related parties in every province to control sources of air pollutants and ban any open-air burning.

Moreover, she noted that people should take care of their health by following the guidelines suggested by the Ministry of Public Health. Updated air quality bulletins will be sent through the Air4thai application.

The government will establish a centre for sustainable air pollution management chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Natural Resources and Environment Minister Patcharawat Wongsuwan.

It will focus on reducing the number of forest fires in 11 conservative forest zones and 10 national reserved forests, which have a bad record of forest fires during the drought season, said Rachata Phisitbanakorn, his vice-minister.

Information on air pollutant sources in each area will be sent to related authorities to deal with the problem at its sources, he said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin told parliament during the fiscal budget debate that the government has attempted to elevate people's quality of life, which should include a right to clean air.

He further added that PM2.5 is closely associated with entrenched farming practices, but the government is trying to offer alternatives to land burning such as buying unwanted yields as well as using corn cobs for making fertilizer and as a source of renewable energy.

Regarding the clean air bill, he said that the government is expected to forward it to parliament on Jan 11, and it will include measures to increase taxes on imported crops that have come from neighbouring countries where the practice of open-air burning remains tolerated.

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