Kabut Asap Pekat Kebakaran Lahan Gambut Selimuti Kota Pontianak

Kabut Asap Pekat Kebakaran Lahan Gambut Selimuti Kota Pontianak

| Selasa, 9 April 2019 – 04:12 WIB

PONTIANAK – Kota Pontianak, Kalimantan Barat dan sekitarnya mulai diselimuti asap pekat pada Senin (8/4/2019) malam sekitar pukul 21.00 WIB. Kabut asap itu dipicu kebakaran lahan gambut yang mulai terjadi dalam beberapa hari terakhir.

Dari pantauan SINDOnews, Kota Pontianak mulai berselimut asap pada malam hari dengan jarak pandang di atas 400 meter. Pekatnya kabut asap ini dampak dari pembakaran lahan yang terjadi.

Kabut asap yang melanda Kota Pontianak berapa hari ini semakin menebal. Hal tersebut disebabkan beberapa faktor seperti masih adanya titik api di sekitar Pontianak dan hujan yang tak kunjung datang sejak sepekan terakhir.

“Kabut asap nih bang mulai tebal lagi Pontianak ini lama-lama nanti pasti pekat lagi akibat warga bakar lahan nih. Ini kasihan warga Pontinak hirup udara tidak segar makin betambah lah penyakit nih, apa lagi anak-anak besok kan masuk sekolah pasti berdampak buruk menghirup udara tidak sehat ini,” ujar Hari Pahlawan, salah seorang warga Kota Pontianak.

Hari juga meminta instansi terkait jangan berdiam diri dan segera bertindak mengatasi kabut asap yang menyelimuti Kota Pontianak. “Pontianak memang dapat ekspor asap. Hingga kini kebakaran lahan belum terjadi di kawasan Pontianak. Namun kita tidak boleh lengah, kalau ada kebakaran maka harus cepat ditangani,” ucapnya.

Kebakaran lahan masih berpotensi terjadi di Pontianak, karena itu dia meminta masyarakat waspada. Warga diimbau untuk tidak melakukan pembakaran lahan karena bisa menambah pekat kabut asap.

Kabut asap pekat mulai terjadi di Kota Pontianak seperti di Jalan Ahmad Yani, Pontianak, Kalimantan Barat sekitar pukul 00.00 WIB. Meski sudah adanya imbauan dan ancaman pidana bagi pembakar lahan sepertinya tidak membuat pembakar lahan gentar sehingga tetap meneruskan bencana musiman ini.

Link: https://daerah.sindonews.com/read/1394032/174/kabut-asap-pekat-kebakaran-lahan-gambut-selimuti-kota-pontianak-1554752528

Haze-hit northerners feel the pinch, poll shows

Haze-hit northerners feel the pinch, the poll shows

national April 08, 2019 01:00

By The Nation

PEOPLE in the North are burdened by additional costs to cope with the ongoing haze crisis even as more forest fires erupted in some areas yesterday.

A Nida Poll survey of 1,253 respondents who lived in nine northern provinces and encountered the haze on April 4 to 5, found that nearly 57 percent of them had to bear additional costs to protect themselves from the pollution. It was not revealed how much more they had to spend. About 43.10 percent said they did not have to spend anything extra to take care of themselves. The poll also found that 36.47 percent of the respondents said they were seriously affected by the problem, while only 9.26 percent said they were unaffected.

About 60 percent said they were allergic to the haze, with some |suffering from colds and runny nose, while 49.34 percent said they faced respiratory difficulties. About 48 percent said they had sore eyes.

Nearly 84 percent said they had used facemasks to protect |themselves and 29 percent said they preferred to stay at home.

The Pollution Control Department yesterday tried to downplay the |situation while forest fires still erupted in several areas.

PCD director-general Pralong Damrongthai said that as of 9 am |yesterday, the concentration of fine dust particles – PM 2.5 – had reduced in several areas compared to the previous day. The overall air quality had improved to moderately fine to health-affecting. Three areas in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai were severely affected by the haze during the past weeks and were identified as the most dangerous for health. The |concentration of PM 2.5 microns in 24 hours were measured at 47 to 123 micrograms per cubic meter, still exceeding the safety limit of 50mcg.

The department asked for cooperation from local residents to desist from setting fires in their localities. Those prone to health problems should avoid exposure to pollution and outdoor activities, he warned.

From Chiang Rai to Mae Hong Son, new forest fires still erupted along the mountain ridges bordering Thailand and Myanmar and parts of Laos.

Officials and volunteers faced difficulties reaching the sites and |dousing the fires due to the steep slopes. In mountainous Mae Hong Son, as many as 128 hotspots were still detected.

Link: https://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/national/30367327

Haze woes lIkely to lInger, worsen #AsiaNewsNetwork

Haze woes likely to linger, worsen #AsiaNewsNetwork

PUBLISHED 7 APRIL 2019

(The Nation/ANN)-VISITING CHIANG MAI on Tuesday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha issued an order to end the haze crisis in the North within seven days, alongside declaring it part of the national agenda.

However, environmental groups like Greenpeace are saying that such an unprecedented short-term directive would do little to resolve what has become a persistent crisis requiring serious long-term measures.

Greenpeace country director Tara Buakamsri said the haze was not simply an environmental matter, but rather demands multidisciplinary knowledge to bring under control.

“About four years ago, judging from the number of hotspots there are now, we had the same old problem,” he said. “It’s the same story and we still haven’t effectively undertaken anything to address it.”

Tara was referring to the 10,133 large, open fires that the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISDA) observed in the North between January and May 2016.

Unlike the smog that enveloped Bangkok early in the year, the haze crisis in the North stems largely from spontaneous dry-season forest fires and other fires deliberately set to clear farmland.

GISDA has found that the number of hotspots in nine northern provinces including Chiang Mai has been climbing since early March. From the dozens initially seen, the number soared in mid-March, surpassing last year’s record for the same period.

As of this past Monday, the agency recorded 6,069 hotspots, compared to 4,722 in the same period last year.

The statistics echo those of the Royal Forestry Department, which recorded at least 5,909 hotspots in the North on Monday. Of these, 641 were burning outside forestlands, 772 were on farms abutting forests, and 4,496 were within forests.

Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son, Lampang, and Tak are worst off, accounting for 63 percent of the fires observed. Chiang Mai alone had 1,033.

Most observers believe the northern blazes are closely tied to the region’s traditional farming practices.

Haze Free Thailand, a project run by the Research University Network, has been studying the causes since last year, looking for possible solutions.

Most of the fires are set during the dry season and are the result of different land-use patterns, it has found.

Every January and into February, farmers set fires in their lowland fields to burn off scrub from the previous crop and prepare the soil for planting the next one.

Every February and into March, people who forage for mushrooms and other woodland edibles set fires within forests and clear undergrowth to set firebreaks, and sometimes trigger out-of-control forest fires.

Critical factors have now begun contributing to the haze problem, particularly clearing highland forests for mono-crop cultivation and rotational farming. Corn has become the most popular crop in the region as more farmers sign contracts with agro-giants.

Project researchers found that bans imposed on outdoor burning every March and April do not deter farmers from burning off the leftover stubble in their fields ahead of the rainy season.

During mid-March, Tara had also observed smoke pouring into the North from neighboring countries, again the product of cropland burning.

Based on GISDA’s MODIS satellite imagery from March 11 to 17, it had captured 728 hotspots in Laos, 446 in Myanmar and 103 in Cambodia.

During that same period, the level of PM2.5 – particulate matter 2.5 microns or less in diameter – topped the World Health Organisation safe standard (25 micrograms per cubic meter of air) across 80 percent of Thailand.

It was clear, Tara said, that transboundary pollution was significantly adding to Thailand’s woes.

The positive note to this year’s haze crisis, he said, is that more citizens are now aware of the health risks posed by the fine dust particles in the air, and their loud complaints have caught the government’s attention.

Tara pointed out that the problem has impacts beyond the health of humans and the environment, extending to the economy as well.

Environmentalists have also noticed more fires in forests this year than in community woods.

Tara blames this on soured relations between farmers and forestry officials, who are perceived to be heavy-handed following the military orders when farms are found to be overlapping on forests.

This conflict, he said, also needs to be doused.

As for the pollution crossing borders, Tara said Southeast Asian countries cannot place much hope in the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution because it’s had a scant practical effect, due to member-countries’ shared policy of not interfering in each other’s internal affairs.

Instead, he said, the solution could lie in other means. Singapore, for example, has a law against business operators elsewhere creating air pollution.

Other countries should consider similar legislation, Tara said.

“But that would require a strong government, one that dares face up to big business. And big business often has a heavy influence in politics today, so I’m not sure if we could enforce similar laws here,” he said.

Link: https://elevenmyanmar.com/news/haze-woes-likely-to-linger-worsen-asianewsnetwork

57 forest, bush fires reported in Brunei since early March

57 forest, bush fires reported in Brunei since early March

James Kon | Borneo Bulletin/Asia News Network

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei   /   Sat, April 6, 2019   /   06:06 pm

The Fire and Rescue Department (FRD) issued a statement yesterday thanking the Brunei Gas Carriers Sdn Bhd for contributing 20 boxes of mineral water to the personnel of the Jerudong Fire Station.

“On behalf of the Fire and Rescue Department, the Commanding Officer of the Operation Branch ‘F’ conveys his gratitude and thanks to Brunei Gas Carriers Managing Director John Douglas Cook, as well as his staff, for the contribution,” said the statement.

Firefighters from the Operation Branch ‘F’ at the Jerudong and Pengkalan Batu fire stations have been handling 57 reports of forest and bush fires since early March, as Brunei Darussalam enters the second phase of the northeast monsoon season with very limited rainfall.

Apart from renewed warnings on open burning, leaving campfires unattended and tossing lit cigarette butts, the FRD also reminds members of the public to slow down when driving by areas that are affected by the forest fire, as the smoke can reduce visibility.

To report cases of open burning, contact 995 or 123. To report vandalism or theft of fire hydrants, contact 993.

Link: https://www.thejakartapost.com/seasia/2019/04/06/57-forest-bush-fires-reported-in-brunei-since-early-march.html

On the front line with the Chiang Mai firefighters battling the flames behind the world’s worst air

On the front line with the Chiang Mai firefighters battling the flames behind the world’s worst air
 

 (Updated: )

SAMOENG, Thailand: Under a shroud of thick, black smoke, the hill is ablaze.

Men in red uniforms snake through a burning forest in single file, searching for the source of the ferocious fire that has engulfed a large part of the hill in Samoeng district of western Chiang Mai – a northern Thai province that recently reported the worst air quality in the world.

“It’s more severe than previous years because the fuel – all the dry leaves and plants – had accumulated for a few years without burning. This year is dry. There is no rain and little humidity. So when the fuel ignites, it’s harder to control,” said Amphon Kanchan from the Khun Kan-Samoeng forest fire station.

For nearly two months, the firefighter has been on the front line of the ongoing battle against the burning forests in the mountainous province, which currently reports “hazardous” levels of air quality on the Air Quality Index. Some of them are a result of the drought and scorching heat while others were caused by crop burning – a common method used by farmers to clear farmland.

“Samoeng is a very difficult area. The terrain is high, steep and full of stony cliffs. Sometimes we have to cut pieces of wood and stick them in the ground for support as we climb,” Amphon said.

Every day, the firefighter leaves the station at 6 am for various hot spots. Work is normally finished by 10pm but sometimes it drags on until the small hours of the morning – often without a meal break.

“If we don’t finish work, we can’t go back down.”

Between Jan 1 and Apr 4, 6,437 hot spots were reported in nine provinces in northern Thailand. Data from the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency shows Chiang Mai has the highest number of hot spots – 1,299 – followed by 1,174 in Mae Hong Son, 975 in Nan, 798 in Lampang, 644 in Tak, 554 in Chiang Rai, 379 in Phrae, 341 in Phayao and 282 in Lamphun.

These hot spots have resulted in a haze crisis which prompted Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to fly Chiang Mai earlier this week to address the situation.

“I would like everybody to be determined in solving and alleviating the problem within seven days,” he said on Tuesday.

We all have to accept the situation is still severe.

On Friday, Chiang Mai recorded a “very unhealthy” PM2.5 air quality index reading of 293. On some days, it has been much worse. PM2.5 are microparticles with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers or about 3 percent the diameter of a human hair.

The particles are one of the deadliest forms of air pollution and can penetrate deep inside the lungs, where they either remain for long periods or pass into the bloodstream unfiltered. Long-term exposure to these particles can result in cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and cancers.

A lot of them fill Chiang Mai’s air but only a handful of residents are aware of their existence or the danger they could pose.

(pp) Chiang Mai resident
Urai Khiewmoon, a Chiang Mai resident, said she does not like wearing a face mask despite the severe situation of the haze. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

“I don’t wear a face mask because I can’t breathe properly with it,” said Urai Khiewmoon, a Chiang Mai resident. “But I don’t have any health problem.”

Instead of wearing a face mask that filters PM2.5 particles, Urai chooses to stay indoors when the air gets bad and so do her neighbors – the elderly, parents and young children.

But even if the tiny particles cannot be seen, the smoke which carries their potentially deadly threat is very visible. Venturing out on the worst days means walking through choking, dense clouds of smoke. The smell of the burning forests hangs heavy in the air, and staying outside for very long is unpleasant at best. At worst, it is a physical challenge.

A DANGEROUS JOB WITH NO PROTECTION

On the burning hill, the firefighters have split into two groups to control the flames from different directions. They use little water simply because most parts of the hill are too high for a water truck to reach. Instead, they use brooms made of bamboo trunks to sweep dry leaves and grass – the fuel – away from the flames to create a firebreak.

If the fire is 3 metres high, Amphon said the gap needs to be at least 8 metres wide. However, the process has to be done gradually by firefighters, who usually work together in a team of 15 people.

image: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/image/11417372/0x0/3860/2447/fdfe379a28161c4a574fdac0767779a2/zS/-pp–chiang-mai-fire-fighter.jpg(pp) Chiang Mai fire fighter
A firefighter tries to put out a fire on one of the hills in Samoeng. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

“When the first person has separated the fuel from the fire, the second one comes in to widen the gap. Then the third and the fourth persons make it even wider. The fifth and the sixth persons are responsible for checking the firebreak to ensure no branch or leaf is left behind,” he explained.

“We can’t separate the fuel from the fire right away. Otherwise, the flames could jump across the gap.”

(pp) Chiang Mai fire truck
A firefighter shoots water at a fire in Samoeng district in western Chiang Mai. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

From day until night, firefighters have to work in searing heat on steep and dangerous terrain. But despite their perilous tasks, they hardly have any protection. In Chiang Mai, the likes of Amphon wear a long-sleeved shirt, simple trousers and boots during the operation. However, none of them is fireproof.

“The boots save our ankles but they don’t help us balance on steep terrains. It’s slippery,” he said.

“We wear them and carry water with us. When they catch fire, we pour water on them to cool them down. Sometimes our boots get burnt.”

(pp) Chiang Mai fire fuelled by drought
Dry leaves and grass accumulated in the forest for a few years act as the fuel of the forest fires in northern Thailand. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

Forest fires and haze are reoccurring problems in northern Thailand in the dry season between January and April. This year, the situation remains severe as the country approaches its water festival Songkran, which is celebrated annually on Apr 13-15.

The period usually sees a large number of tourists in Chiang Mai. But according to the Provincial Tourism Authority of Thailand office, 5 percent of Thai tourists have already canceled their reservations or postponed their trip to the northern province amid growing public concern about its toxic air.

And still, the work of the firefighters goes on. Round the clock they work, trying to restore clean air to the region’s suffering people.

“I haven’t stopped working or gone home. I work every day,” firefighter Amphon says, as he turns once again to tackle the relentless flames.

Source: CNA/pp

Link: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/thailand-chiang-mai-fire-worlds-worst-air-pollution-11417294

Asian Media Has Misled the Public on Air Pollution

Asian Media Has Misled the Public on Air Pollution

Public misunderstandings about the cause and impact of air pollution are being driven by poor media reporting in South and Southeast Asia, a new study finds.

05/APR/2019

The media in South and Southeast Asia has helped to build a hazy public perception of air pollution by reporting it superficially, insufficiently or incorrectly, says a new report by Vital Strategies, a US-based public health institution.

The report titled ‘Hazy Perceptions’ analyses more than half a million social media posts between 2015 to 2018 in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Mongolia, and Pakistan. “Our report finds that public perceptions about air pollution do not match the evidence,” said Anchal Mehta, a member of the study team.

Sources of air pollution in South and Southeast Asia as discussed in media and social media.

Air pollution causes more than 4 million deaths each year globally. South and Southeast Asia account for around 1.5 million – or 37% – of these deaths.

Most important drivers of air pollution ignored

The most important sources of pollutants, such as household fuels, power plants, and waste burning, receive less public attention than sources such as vehicular emissions, the report found.

recent study by Clean Air Collective in India showed that 90% of Indians interviewed across highly polluted cities do not understand the causes and effects of air pollution. “This could be partly because of media coverage that doesn’t reflect the current evidence and science,” the report says. Less significant sources of air pollution such as vehicular emissions are mentioned more frequently than more significant sources like power plants and waste burning.

Another study carried out by Vital Strategies in India in 2014 and 2015 showed that the majority of news about air pollution omitted information about the major health impacts or the effect on vulnerable populations.

In India, focus on vehicle emissions was disproportionately high compared to other sources.  The debate was dominated by the Delhi government’s odd-even number plate rule (restricting which cars can be on the road on what day), with vehicle pollution understood as the number one pollution source. Vehicle pollution was still seen as a number one source in other countries as well, followed by cooking and natural wildfires.

“There is a gap between commonly discussed sources and actual sources of air pollution. Although power plants, burning fossil fuels, and waste burning are major sources for air pollution in many countries, they do not show up among top sources,” the report added. Even though the 2015 haze from forest fires that affected Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia was widely reported, vehicle pollution remained the most discussed source of air pollution that year.

Sources of air pollution in India as discussed in media and social media.

Long term health impacts ignored

The media has also focused on short-term health effects rather than more serious long term threats of air pollution. “News and social media posts largely mention short-term health impacts such as coughing or itchy eyes, far more than health threats caused by chronic exposure, such as cancer,” the report claims.

Beyond deaths, air pollution causes disability from lung and heart disease, contributes to diabetes, inhibits physical activity, and negatively influences children’s physical and cognitive development. Between 2015 and 2018, most of the conversations in the media and social media mention acute symptoms (75%) while mentions of chronic illness were less frequent (25%).

“This reflects an important gap in awareness of air pollution exacerbation of chronic cardiovascular and lung diseases, which account for the vast majority of deaths from air pollution,” said Kass.

Conversation on chronic and acute non-chronic illness in South and Southeast Asia.

How to influence the debate?

The report recommends evidence-based communication campaigns to highlight the most significant sources of air pollution and to address the health hazards of long-term exposure. “Another critical step is ensuring that media professionals and key advocates for clean air are informed about credible data on the sources of air pollution, its health impact, and solutions, said Mehta.

Interestingly, the report says the public health authorities do not influence the conversation on air pollution, but a photographer, international NGO Green Peace and an activist were on top leading influencers list.

Air pollution is most frequently discussed from September through December when air quality is worsened by the winter season and crop burning practices adopted by farmers. The report has pointed out the seasonal reporting as a challenge for engaging the public to support effective air pollution control, which requires year-round, sustained measures.

The report also found that the posts about the effect of air pollution on children received more engagement on social media.

“There is a clear disconnect between public understanding of air pollution and reality. While people are aware of the problem, there is a need to elevate concern about the impacts of air pollution on human health as well as the environment,” Mehta added.

Link: https://thewire.in/environment/asian-media-misleads-public-on-air-pollution

The battle against forest fires continues as pollution levels rise

The battle against forest fires continues as pollution levels rise

national April 04, 2019 15:57

By The Nation

The Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency’s fire monitoring system, as of 2.42am, cited 275 hot spots in the region. The top five worst provinces were Mae Hong Son (114 hot spots), Chiang Mai (35), Lampang (35), Chiang Rai (33), and Phayao (20).

Air quality remained poor in Chiang Mai – which ranked second with an air quality index (AQI) of 280 in the airvisual.com ranking of the world’s worst polluted cities as of 1 pm – after China’s Shenyang that cited an AQI of 1,505.

Chiang Mai officials fought multiple forest fires in Samoeng district with the latest one extinguished on Wednesday evening, damaging 100 raises, while Ban Laowu firefighters in Wiang Haeng district called for back-up to fight an extensive blaze there.

Multiple fires on Doi Luang Chiang Dao in Chiang Dao district were all out while officials still had to inspect damage to rare plants and protected wildlife animals there.

In Phayao, there was 85 micrograms of PM2.5 – airborne particulates 2.5 microns or less in diameter – per cubic meter of air and an AQI of 187 – both figures of which were beyond Thai safety limits of 50 mcg in PM2.5 and of 100 in AQI.

Soldiers from the 34th Military Circle joined Mae Puem National Park officials and community volunteers to fight multiple forest fires including one in conserved forestland in Tambon Ban Sang of Muang Phayao that was put out on Wednesday after it destroyed 50 raises of forest land.

In Mae Hong Son with a PM2.5 level of 160 mcg at 8 am, firefighters continued to battle flames especially in the hard-hit Pang Mapha district.

During Wednesday’s meeting of all district chiefs to brainstorm solutions to forest fires and haze, governor Sirirat Chamupakarn called for a total ban on all outdoor burning, a full effort to put out forest fires, an investigation to find the person who created the fire, a fact-finding committee to probe the fire that cannot pinpoint the culprit, and the establishment of a tambon-level task force.

After that meeting, each district called its own meeting to pass on the policy while many village headmen noted that some forest fire incidents, especially in Pang Mapha, may be politically motivated, as some people have conflicts with some kamnans or village headmen and may want to remove their rivals from posts.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha earlier this week said that kamnans or village headmen who failed to curb forest fires and haze may be fired.

Meanwhile, the Pollution Control Department (PCD) at 9 am, put the 24-hour average of PM2.5 between 38mcg and 151mcg in nine northern provinces.

Tambon Jong Kham in Muang Mae Hong Son was worst off at 151 mcg followed by Tambon Wiang Phang Kham in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district (121 mcg) and Tambon Chang Pheuk in Muang Chiang Mai (118 mcg). Chiang Mai’s other three stations also cited high levels; Sri Phum and Suthep in Muang cited 110 mcg and 78 mcg while Chang Kerng in Mae Chaem cited 84 mcg.

The Chiang Mai Air Quality Health Index Center’s website (cmaqhi.org) at 9 am showed the hourly result of PM2.5 to be dangerously high in various surrounding districts with Tambon Yang Mern of Samoeng district being the worst off at 461 mcg followed by Tambon Mae Pong in Doi Saket district at 425 mcg.

Link: https://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/national/30367143

Alarmingly high PM2.5 levels found in Chiang Mai, INSIDE a safety zone building

Alarmingly high PM2.5 levels found in Chiang Mai, INSIDE a safety zone building

Published By 

A Chiang Mai air-pollution safe zone proved to be not that ‘safe’ according to a medical lecturer. The level of PM2.5 very fine particles was found to be very high INSIDE the designated area.

But the problem was soon resolved later in the day.

Dr Rungsrit Kanjanavanit, a lecturer in medicine at Chiang Mai University, posted a picture of him holding a portable PM2.5-measuring device yesterday, which read the level of PM2.5 inside a designated air-pollution safe zone at Chiang Mai International Exhibition and Convention Centre and showed a shockingly unhealthy level of AQI of 172, or 98 micrograms per cubic metre of air.

Even though the measured level of PM2.5 inside the safe zone was considerably lower than the PM2.5 level outside, which reached as high as 292 mcg, such a high indoor PM2.5 concentration is far higher than both Thailand and the World Health Organisation’s safety standards of 50 mcg.

“I think the problem is the size of the room is too big for the air purifier to properly filter out PM2.5 from the air inside the room,” Rungsrit said.

But Paskorn Champrasert from Chiang Mai University’s Centre of Excellence in Natural Disaster Management moved in to fix the problem yesterday afternoon. He confirmed at 6 pm that the safe zone had been returned to a PM2.5 dust level below the safety limit.

Last Friday Chiang Mai Governor Supachai Iamsuwan ordered the creation of safe zones in every district of the province, to serve as places of refuge for people to seek shelter from the very hazardous smog situation outside.

Link: https://thethaiger.com/hot-news/air-pollution/alarmingly-high-pm2-5-levels-found-in-chiang-mai-inside-a-safety-zone-building

Wildfires thicken air over Thailand into planet’s most toxic

Wildfires thicken air over Thailand into planet’s most toxic

Siraphob Thanthong-Knight

Bloomberg

Bangkok, Thailand   /   Tue, April 2, 2019 /   12:32 pm

Top Asian finance ministers and central bankers are due to have a summit in northern Thailand this week, and they’ll need pollution masks if they want to avoid breathing toxic air.

Wildfires and crop burning are blanketing the region with smog, prompting Thailand’s junta leader Prayuth Chan-Ocha to fly to Chiang Mai — the area’s tourist hot-spot — early Tuesday to review the crisis. The city’s air quality index was 379 as he visited, the worst major urban reading globally and a level that’s hazardous, according to IQAir AirVisual pollution data.

The air was classed as unhealthy in nearby Chiang Rai, where finance ministry officials and central bankers from Southeast Asian nations as well as China, Japan, and South Korea will meet from Tuesday through Friday. The Bank of Thailand has said it will hand out pollution masks to media covering the event.

Thai authorities blame crop burning to clear farmland, as well as wildfires in mountainous forests amid a drought and searing heat. Chiang Mai has set up a so-called safe zone for residents in a convention center, while a university in Chiang Rai canceled classes on Monday and Tuesday.

“The haze usually comes and goes within a week or two, but it’s been persistent this time — it’s the worst so far,” Khuanchai Supparatpinyo, the director of Chiang Mai University’s Research Institute for Health Sciences, said in an interview. “This can be quite dangerous, and pose health risks.”

Northern Thailand is a popular destination for visitors during the traditional Thai new year festival in mid-April but the smog is likely to make some holidaymakers think twice.

At the start of 2019, the military government was rattled by the second year of spiking seasonal air pollution in Bangkok, exacerbated by traffic fumes, industrial emissions, and construction dust.

So far the episodes of smog haven’t damaged tourism but worsening haze could pose a challenge for an industry that’s key to economic growth.

Link: https://www.thejakartapost.com/seasia/2019/04/02/wildfires-thicken-air-over-thailand-into-planets-most-toxic-.html

Prayut promises to ease smog in northern Thailand in a week

Prayut promises to ease smog in northern Thailand in a week

PUBLISHED APR 2, 2019, 9:27 AM SGT UPDATED APR 2, 2019, 7:42 PM

 

Tan Hui Yee

BANGKOK – As choking smog continued to smother northern Thailand, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha flew to Chiang Mai province yesterday (Tues) and promised full government assistance to tackle the crisis.

The region appears to have been hit particularly hard this year by the haze, an annual scourge caused by forest fires and the illegal slash and burn method of clearing farmlands during the height of summer.

At 2 pm on Tuesday, vast swathes of the north in Nan, Phayao, Lampang, Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son, and Chiang Rai registered 24-hour average readings of fine airborne particulate matter that exceeded safety standards. The presence of pollutants smaller than 2.5 micrometers reached as high as 256 micrograms per cubic meter near the Myanmar border in Mae Hong Son province.

Fires continued to rage across the mountainous north, with Thailand’s Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency recording as many as 348 hotspots on Monday (April 1).

Handing out firefighting equipment to some officials on Tuesday (April 2), Mr. Prayut promised: “The government will support this operation with all its resources, to ease the problem within seven days.”

Embattled Chiang Mai governor Supachai Iamsuwan, under strong criticism for not doing more to tackle the problem, told reporters on Tuesday: “We will ramp up all operations and solve the problem within seven days. We will go down to the smallest (fire) in the villages.”

He added that the Chiang Mai administration had set up 297 places of refuge equipped with air-conditioning and air purifiers.

“We believe that the centers are suitable and we have enough, but we can add more if needed.”

But many Chiang Mai locals remained skeptical about government efforts.

Hotelier Pornchai Jitnavasathien dismissed the idea of the centers, saying: “It’s not working. It’s a crazy idea. You should be giving out masks and asking people to stay at home rather than moving them to centers.”

The government, he said, should have declared a crisis so that people could stay at home rather than risk their health by heading outdoors.

“If this had happened in Bangkok, there would have been a lot of pressure on the government,” he said.

In late January, still, winds concentrated city pollution in the air surrounding the capital, triggering an uproar in Bangkok. Officials rushed to check vehicle emissions and even halted construction work. In some locations, maintenance and firefighting crew sprayed water into the air, the same as they are doing now in Chiang Mai.

In the landmark general election on March 24, Chiang Mai locals cast their ballots in facemasks.

Hotel occupancy in the city – the second biggest in Thailand – typically hits 60-70 percent during the Songkran holiday period in mid-April, but is hovering at 30 to 35 percent now, said Mr. Pornchai.

Locals are now improvising on equipment try to make the air more breathable.

On Facebook, they are sharing tips on how to pair a regular extractor fan with a Xiaomi air filter, to create a home-made air purifier for just 1,200 baht (S$51). A full-scale purifier costs at least four times as much.

“If you don’t have enough money for an air purifier, this can help,” says freelance programmer Nattapol Kurapornkietpikul, 30, who was inundated with queries after he shared pictures of his idea on his Facebook account. Both items are now out of stock in many places.

Link: https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/chiang-mai-haze-thai-king-urges-volunteers-to-help-pm-prayut-set-to-visit-smog-hit-city