City smog worsens to danger level
BMA assures all will be well ‘in 11 years’
Residents of the capital were warned yesterday by the Pollution Control Department (PCD) that the choking smog in the city had soared above levels considered safe.
Bangkokians have been suffering from harmful levels of dust in the air since last week.
The airborne particulate matter yesterday surged above the safety limit of 50 microgrammes per cubic metre (μcg) over a 24-hour average in many areas of Bangkok, a level which could endanger people’s health, the department said.
Levels of particulate matter of 2.5 microns or less in diameter (PM 2.5) were measured at 72 μcg along Intharaphithak Road in Thon Buri district; 61 μcg in Bang Na district; 60 μcg in Wang Thonglang district; 53 μcg along Lat Phrao and Rama IV Roads; and 52 on Phaya Thai Road, according to the department.
Airborne particulate matter also increased on Intharaphithak and Phaya Thai roads.
Department director-general Sunee Piyapanpong yesterday suggested again that people, particularly those suffering from respiratory and heart ailments, should wear face masks to avoid breathing in ultra-fine dust particles.
However, normal face masks do not work effectively and apparently the KN95 standard mask is required.
Srisuwan Janya, president of the Stop Global Warming Association, yesterday called on the government to declare Bangkok a pollution control zone to deal with the harmful dust particles.
More vehicles on the roads have been a major cause of an increase in dust in the capital but City Hall assured the situation will “permanently improve” in 11 years with the launch of many different modes of public transport.
Suwanna Jungrungrueng, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s (BMA) deputy clerk, said yesterday vehicles, particularly those with diesel engines, played a crucial role in the city’s air pollution problems.
At least 25% of all vehicles in Bangkok have diesel engines, or 2.4 million, she said.
Also, the total number of vehicles in Bangkok is now about 9.7 million, or 4.4 times higher than the road capacity while around 500,000 new vehicles are registered in the capital each year.
Ms Suwanna said it was obvious vehicles are the main factor contributing to the city’s air pollution.
She said cleaning measures would help reduce the harmful particles in the air.
Therefore, roads and streets in dustprone areas would be cleaned daily instead of weekly. City Hall will also ban construction work at night to bring down dust levels, Ms Suwanna added.
“In the future, all modes of masstransit systems will be launched across Bangkok, particularly electric trains in 2029 [in 11 years] This will help alleviate traffic congestion substantially,” she said, adding that less vehicle use will result in lower dust levels.
“Also, a measure regulating vehicles in city areas based on the numbers of their licence plates will be implemented similar to that in Paris, France,” she said.
The Thai Meteorological Department yesterday forecasted the temperature in Bangkok will drop by 1-2C in the morning while a lack of wind will increase the level of airborne particulates.
However, the situation will improve from later in the day, said Kamol Promasakha na Sakolnakhon, director of the TMD’s Meteorological Radar and Satellite Data Analysis Division.
The city’s haze woes prompted Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday to instruct the Department of Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation to carry out artificial rainmaking to help eliminate dust particles in the air across Bangkok.
Rain making will take place soon when weather conditions are suitable.
The department also asked the public and private sectors to refrain from rubbish burning and construction activities.
Despite the harmful dust l evels reported across Bangkok since last week, residents seem unfazed by the potential risk to their health as they have already grown accustomed to some of the world’s most congested roads and thick traffic fumes.
“I don’t think any news about how harmful the dust is would affect the number of people who visit Rommaninat Park, because Bangkok residents are used to it already,” said Sirirat Kongpermpoon.
The 65-year-old takes a public bus from her house in Pran Nok to the park every morning to do aerobics.
She said the idea of wearing an air-filtering mask never even entered her head.
“Even though some people wear face masks on the street, most won’t. Holding their breath or covering their noses with their sleeves is more likely,” she said.
Ms Sirirat said people who live in the city are battle hardened and resilient as they have to contend with more immediate threats a few times a year, such as the risk of their house or street being flooded.
An 80-year-old man identified only as Roj said it was irrelevant to ask whether residents were running scared from the smog. All that matters is that the government do something about it, he said, clearly flustered.
“You had better ask whether the problem can be solved. If not, we’re on our own.”
Mr Roj, who also does daily exercises at the park, wondered how pollution levels could improve given the relationship between Bangkok’s growing modernisation and affluence, and people’s desires to buy and use cars.
Another spinoff of development is more construction projects, which spells yet more pollution, he said.
At Suan Lumphini Park, runners were seen jogging as usual yesterday afternoon, with no let-up in numbers. Only elderly people tended to wear masks.
One amateur triathlete, who declined to be named, said she was considering swapping the great outdoors for a treadmill unless the pollution apparently emanating from Rama IV Road eased.
The Pollution Control Department said levels of “deleterious airborne particulate matter” exceeding the safety limit of 50 microgrammes per cubic metre (μcg) were reported in six locations across Bangkok yesterday.
PM 2.5 levels hit 72 μcg on Intharaphithak Road in Thon Buri district yesterday, one of six hot spots in the city, monitoringagency officials said.
You had better ask whether the problem can be solved. If not, we’re on our own. FITNESS ENTHUSIAST ROJ
People wear face masks while exercising in Lumpini Park in Pathumwan district of the capital. Air pollution in the capital has been far above the so-called safe limits for two consecutive weeks. The public has been advised to avoid exercising outdoors.