City smog wors­ens to dan­ger level

BMA as­sures all will be well ‘in 11 years’

Bangkok Post - - FRONT PAGE - POST RE­PORTERS

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.

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