Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has ordered the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) to deploy all available measures to deal with the worsening fine-dust pollution, ACM Phanpakdee Pattanakul, the air force chief, said on Tuesday.
This comes as the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (Gistda) reported that Samut Songkhram and Samut Sakhon were the only two provinces that experienced red levels of particulate matter 2.5 micrometres or less in diameter (PM2.5) as of 10am on Tuesday.
Both provinces' fine particle levels are higher than the safe threshold of 37.5 microgrammes per cubic metre (µg/m³), with the dust level measured at 90.3 µg/m³ in Samut Songkhram and 75.8 µg/m³ at Samut Sakhon.
Moderately dangerous levels of fine particles were detected in 18 provinces nationwide, with the worst among the "orange" zones being Ratchaburi, where dust levels were measured at 67.6 µg/m³.
In Bangkok, the highest PM2.5 level was reported in Nong Khaem district at 58.6 µg/m³, followed by Don Muang district (56.2 µg/m³), Lak Si district (52.1), Thawi Watthana district (49.4), and Bang Bon district (48.7).
To respond to the government's pollution concerns, ACM Phanpakdee said the RTAF is using all the tools and means it has at its disposal, such as water-dumping aircraft, to combat the haze.
RTAF is also collaborating with agencies and the Second Army Region to prevent and mitigate forest fires and the ensuing pollution problems, he added.
In the current fiscal year, the RTAF plans to deploy a Basler BT-67, an ageing utility aircraft, for fire prevention work and water-drop operations.
"The air force plans to use the Basler BT-67 despite its long service life. With that said, the safety of pilots remains a top priority," said ACM Phanpakdee.
According to ACM Phanpakdee, the RTAF plans to procure four water containers to be added to those installed in the water-dumping aircraft.
The RTAF also plans to operate a weather radar system to improve efficiency in predicting and locating forest fires, especially in mountainous areas.
At the same time, the air force has also prepared to mount special operations to help alleviate the possible effects of this year's El Nino weather phenomenon on the general population, he said.
Meanwhile, Todsaphol Phuan-U-Dom, Chiang Mai deputy governor, has been overseeing authorities involved in firebreak construction projects in bushfire-prone areas inside the Op Luang National Park area, where there has been heavy accumulation of dry vegetation matter.
Phanpakdee: RTAF to deploy resources