Bangkok Residents Told to Stay Inside as Pollution Reaches Dangerous Levels
(Bloomberg) — Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha has urged those living in the Thai capital, Bangkok, to stay indoors as the city’s air pollution reached dangerous levels.
The air quality index, or AQI, climbed to 182 in Bangkok at 10:14 am — higher than the levels in Asia’s famously polluted metropolises of New Delhi, Beijing and Jakarta — before falling back to 138 by 3 p.m., according to website AirVisual, which monitors air pollution around the world. Readings below 50 are considered safe, while anything above 300 is considered hazardous.
People living in areas with high pollution levels in Bangkok should avoid “unnecessary” outdoor activities or wear masks, Prayuth told reporters in Chiang Mai province Monday.
Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy is rated as having some of the world’s most toxic air, caused mainly by construction, vehicle emissions, polluting factories and farmland burning.
The government’s agencies have taken urgent measures such as controls on construction sites and strict inspection of polluting vehicles, according to Puttipong Punnakanta, the government’s spokesman.
Thailand’s rainmaking department plans to try and spark precipitation from Tuesday in an effort to disperse pollutants, though officials said low atmospheric moisture levels pose an obstacle.
Thailand to make it rain as pollution chokes Bangkok
Thailand is set to deploy rainmaking planes to seed clouds in an effort to tackle the pall of pollution that has shrouded the capital in recent weeks.
The weather modification technique involves dispersing chemicals into the air to aid cloud condensation, which should in theory result in rain.
“The Department of Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation… expects the rainmaking to be done tomorrow (Tuesday) but it depends on wind and humidity levels,” Pralong Dumrongthai, director-general of Thailand’s Pollution Control Department, told reporters.
As Thais woke up Monday morning to another day of murky air blanketing its bustling construction-filled capital, environment group Greenpeace said Bangkok was currently the 10th most polluted in the world, rivaling some cities in China.
Reasons for the persistent smog include combustion exhaust from Bangkok’s traffic-strewn roads, the burning of fields from farmers outside the city, and pollutants from factories.
Public discontent has surfaced on Thai social media and television, with pollution-related hashtags trending and TV hosts advising viewers on the types of face masks they should wear.
Air Visual, an independent online air quality index (AQI) monitor, pegged Bangkok at “unhealthy” levels measuring 156 AQI on Monday — though numbers have often crept higher in the last two months.
But the Pollution Department played down the dangers of the persistent haze, which the government judges using a different set of measurements to see the concentration of harmful microscopic particles known as PM2.5.
He said Bangkok had recent peak PM2.5 levels of 102 micrograms per cubic meter and on Monday was sitting under 90.
“Our PM figure is high but it is not a crisis yet,” he said. “We are not in the range of 120-150 where all people have to wear masks all the time when they are out.”
But Greenpeace’s Thailand director Tara Buakamsri said immediate action should be taken by the authorities, like reducing the number of cars and closing schools in high-risk areas.
“The pollution issues are more and more frequent in Bangkok. We need smarter air quality management.”
In recent weeks, municipal workers have sprayed water along the roads and into the air in Bangkok to help clear the smog, while authorities have urged people to stay indoors.