In the past few days, Bangkok residents have found themselves much beleaguered by smog resulting from hazardous dust particles. Air quality in most areas of Bangkok, as also Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Samut Prakan and Samut Sakhon, have been affected by the PM 2.5dust particles which are exceedingly harmful to human beings as they are fine enough to enter the bloodstream while inhaled through the lungs, leading to respiratory diseases. Residents have been urged to stay indoors as much as possible and to use face masks while travelling around the city, while visibility has also been at an all-time low in many areas and nearby provinces of the Thai capital city.
Sunday, 13th January, saw the third straight day of this air pollution and the state of affairs is likely to continue till at least another month due to weather patterns, according to an associate professor of economics at Kasetsart University, who was quoted by the Straits Times. China-based air-pollution monitoring website http://aqicn.org reported that the Air Quality Index (AQI) on Sunday was at 195 in Bangkok, with Bang Khen district recording a mindboggling 394 the same morning: levels above 150 are deemed as unhealthy. On Monday morning, the website airvisual.com recorded the Air Quality Index (AQI) as 180 in Bangkok and environmental group Greenpeace has roundly stated that Bangkok is the 10th most polluted city in the world.
In desperation, on Monday 14th January, Thai authorities resorted to firing water cannons upwards into the air in an attempt to dispel the dust particles and turned to artificial rainmaking techniques (which involves dispersing chemicals into the air to aid cloud condensation) as well, which were put into effect on Tuesday. According to the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry as quoted in the Bangkok Post, Phaya Thai, Prawet, Bang Kapi and Huai Khwang districts of Bangkok and parts of Nonthaburi and Pathum Thani provinces have experienced rain, which has resulted in the particulate matter dropping 53 to 43mcg in Phaya Thai district, and from 74 to 65mcg in Phra Nakhon district of Bangkok; the safe level is capped at 50mcg (microgrammes) per cubic metre. Rainmaking measures would continue and the Pollution Control Department expected weather conditions to improve on Thursday, with rain forecast for 20% of greater Bangkok.
The reasons for the smog are cited as exhaust from car engines, pollution from factories and the burning of fields by farmers on the outskirts of the city. That said, the solutions would appear to be obvious: to control the car smoke pollution by restricting the number of vehicles on the roads; prohibit the burning of fields; stringent quality checks on construction sites which are responsible for dust creation and limiting the use of fossil fuels.
Written by : Punam Mohandas