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Thailand’s North sees unprecedented levels of PM 2.5 pollution

Forest fires and the burning of crops puts Phrae, Lampang, Phayao and Nan on high alert

With several provinces in the North under a haze of smoke caused by forest fires and outdoor burning, the northern province of Phrae cited an unsafe level of PM2.5 particulate dust of 305 micrograms per cubic metre of air as of 6am on Tuesday (January 28).

Photo Credit: www.77kaoded.com

The Pollution Control Department’s reading as of 9am reported a PM2.5 level of 146mcg in Phrae’s Muang district, while Lampang’s four air quality stations in Muang and Mae Mo districts also cited high levels ranging between 118mcg and 189mcg, Nan’s two stations give readings of 67mcg and 111mcg and Phayao’s Muang district recorded 103mcg.

As of Monday, nine northern provinces reported a total of 1,028 hot spots (forest fires and outdoor burning) with Tak leading the pack at 336 hotspots followed by Lampang (199), Chiang Mai (164), Phrae (93), Lamphun (86) and Nan (84).

In Lampang’ Muang district, officials and volunteers continued their efforts to put out the forest fire on Doi Phra Baht, which has seen 300 rais burn since the fire started over the weekend. Thick smoke from the fire is blanketing Muang and Mae Tha districts, raising the pollution levels to extremely high for the last few days.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced via the TV pool on Monday that the government was concerned and was not dragging its feet in solving the PM2.5 pollution problem, which was now a national agenda. The government would speedily solve the problem by boosting effectiveness in preventing and mitigating the pollution at the sources while rolling out a series of short- and long-term measures, he said. The government also assigned the Interior Ministry, the Bangkok Governor as well as all provincial governors to apply the “single-command” approach to manage and enforce laws and regulations in controlling PM2.5-generating sources, he said.

In a bid to create a long-term solution to the drought and burning of farm waste in Phrae, provincial agricultural office head Sommart Sayompak this week presided over the launch of training at a local school in Tambon Hua Fai of Sung Men district for 200 farmers in irrigation zones on growing crops in the pea family instead of off-season rice.

Under this project, which is being implemented by the office in collaboration with the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) and the Land Development Department, 10 community-level pea seed centres have already been launched to supply some 200 farmers participating in the project to plant on 400 rai in Hua Fai, which is already the province’s key grower of soybeans with 1,250 rai under cultivation.

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