This time of the year is ‘burning season’ in parts of Thailand. Not only in the agricultural areas of Thailand, but in many of the countries bordering Thailand. The season, unfortunately, occurs at the same time as the change in monsoon, causing lighter north-easterly winds to blow down the air from the worst areas into Bangkok and central Thailand.
Some of the readings during the period from late December to April each year can reach into ‘very healthy’ readings, according to iqair.com and other air pollution monitoring services.
The only way to realistically escape the air pollution problem at this time of the year is head south – the further south in Thailand during this time, the better the air quality.
Today, whilst Bangkok, northern and central Thailand are choking on ‘unhealthy’ levels of dog and haze, southern Thailand has much lower levels of air pollution, usually registering as ‘good’ or ‘moderate’.
Meanwhile, Thailand is adjusting its air pollution safety standards from an average of 50 microns to 37.5 microns starting June 1. The hope is that this change will help the Pollution Control Department (PCD) more effectively manage air pollution. The World Health Organisation has set the limit for clean air in cities at 25 microns.
The scale measures the level of the dangerous PM2.5 micron particles per cubic metre of air. We recommend the free online services of iqair.com
The PCD Director-General Pinsak Suraswadi announced that the department has implemented its Level 3 Plan which involves seeking cooperation from employers for employees to work from home and reducing private car usage to lower emissions. Construction sites have been asked to minimize activities that produce dust, and open burning of waste is prohibited.
The provincial governments have the power to control farm waste burning through the “Burn Check” app, currently used in Chiang Mai, but not many other provinces. The PCD intends to tighten regulations on farm waste burning in order to decrease hotspots by half this year.
Bangkok and surrounding areas have poor air quality due to high levels of PM2.5 dust in most areas. This will persist until Saturday, after which air quality is expected to improve slightly. The PCD chief attributes the worsening air pollution in Bangkok, northern, and north-eastern regions to hotspots, which number around 1,200 today.
This is compounded by cross-border smoke from Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia agricultural areas. The PM2.5 level in the atmosphere tends to increase due to stagnant air and smoke from farm waste and garbage burning at this time of the year. On normal days, the PM2.5 level is 35 microns, but it can reach up to 60 microns when air circulation is poor and up to 90 microns when there is burning.
Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt is warning about the poor air quality in Bangkok and has established a warning system for schools.
“Classes will not be suspended for now, as it may cause inconvenience for parents, but students are instructed to wear face masks and avoid outdoor activities.”
The governor even requested people to “stop burning incense, candles and paper during worship”, but acknowledged that it is part of religious freedom and “cannot be forced”.
Phuket GO wonders if burning joss sticks and candles in Thai temples is a problem when compared to the accumulated smoke and haze from the tens of thousands of farms bring off agricultural waste.