Chiang Mai prepares for PM2.5 'disaster areas'
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Chiang Mai prepares for PM2.5 'disaster areas'

Wildfire in Chiang Mai last month (photo: Panumate Tanraksa)
Wildfire in Chiang Mai last month (photo: Panumate Tanraksa)

Chiang Mai will declare a disaster relief area for emergency assistance if any area experiences a PM2.5 dust pollution crisis of Level 2 or higher, according to provincial governor Nirat Phongsitthithawon.

Speaking after a meeting on the haze pollution in this northern province on Wednesday, Mr Nirat said a Level 2 crisis is when the average amount of fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns exceeds 150 microgrammes per cubic metre (μg/m³) for five consecutive days, as per the guidelines of the committee on air pollution management for sustainability.

According to the governor, Chiang Mai has six air quality monitoring stations -- three in Muang district and one each in Chiang Dao, Hot and Mae Chaem districts. Data from the Chiang Dao station shows the PM2.5 level exceeded 150 μg/m³ for nine days from April 1-9.

He said the Comptroller General's Department is developing criteria and guidelines for declaring these disaster relief areas. Once established, a budget can be approved for the affected areas.

To address the haze problem which arises from various factors such as wildfires, agricultural burning practices and emissions from vehicles and factories, the governor said several measures are being put in place.

Twenty-one conservation forests have been closed to tackle wildfires, and 25 national forest reserves are expected to be shuttered soon.

To reduce agricultural burning practices, agencies under the Ministry of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives are being asked to include a strict rule of no farm burning as a condition in their operations. Farmers who fail to comply may see their assistance from these agencies suspended.

To combat pollution in urban areas, transport authorities have been told to intensify their checks of vehicles emitting black smoke, and industrial work officials are instructed to inspect factories that emit pollutants, he added.

According to, Chiang Mai ranked 11th on its list of worst air quality on Wednesday as the province's AQI hit 156, above the "safe" threshold of 100.

Four districts in the province were among the top ten with unsafe levels of ultra-fine dust pollution: Doi Saket at 159 µg/m³, Muang district at 156 µg/m³, San Sai at 151 µg/m³ and Mae On at 149 µg/m³.

Meanwhile, a poacher was arrested on Tuesday by park officials in a forest in tambon Mae Pang in Phrao district where wildfires have been reported in recent days, said the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation (DNP).

DNP director-general Athapol Charoenshunsa said the arrest was made after park rangers were given an anonymous tip about poaching in Sri Lanna National Park and Mae Ngad forest reserve.

The man, who was identified only as Promma, was charged with illegally collecting forest products and handed over to local police. Officials seized kilogrammes of wild honey, 1kg of bee eggs, a lighter and a headlamp, according to Mr Athapol.

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