Philippine Daily Inquirer - - WORLD - —AP

BANGKOK— Un­usu­ally high lev­els of smog wors­ened by weather pat­terns are rais­ing alarm across Asia, with au­thor­i­ties in Thai­land’s hazy cap­i­tal Bangkok opt­ing to hand out face masks and step up en­force­ment of pol­lu­tion con­trols.

A com­bi­na­tion of con­struc­tion dust, auto ex­haust and other pol­lu­tants, lin­ger­ing over Bangkok due to pre­vail­ing weather pat­terns, has taken air qual­ity to un­healthy lev­els in re­cent days.

Tem­po­rary so­lu­tions

“I ad­mit these are tem­po­rary so­lu­tions but we have to do it. Other long term mea­sures will also be im­ple­mented, Pol Gen Aswin Kwan­muang told a meet- ing of Army, po­lice, pol­lu­tion con­trol and other of­fi­cials on Mon­day.

The city was hand­ing out some 10,000 face masks, spray­ing wa­ter to help set­tle dust and tight­en­ing con­trols on when big trucks can use city streets—the Thai Pol­lu­tion Con­trol De­part­ment said that about half of the high lev­els of PM 2.5, tiny par­tic­u­late mat­ter that can dan­ger­ously clog lungs, was due to diesel en­gine emis­sions.

In South Ko­rea, un­usu­ally high PM 2.5 lev­els prompted emer­gency mea­sures to re­duce the health haz­ard.

The coun­try’s Na­tional In­sti­tute of En­vi­ron­men­tal Re­search said the daily av­er­age of 120 mi­cro­grams per cu­bic me­ter as of late Mon­day af­ter­noon was the worst since it be­gan mon­i­tor­ing for PM2.5 in 2015.

Mas­sive in­dus­trial ac­tiv­ity

South Ko­rea has been fight­ing an acute rise in air pol­lu­tion that ex­perts link to emis­sion from the coun­try’s in­creas­ing num­ber of cars and also to China’s mas­sive in­dus­trial ac­tiv­ity.

Thai­land’s air pol­lu­tion prob­lem tends to wax and wane partly depend­ing on the sea­son.

The spring smog has come early to this trop­i­cal city.

“There are a lot of fac­to­ries and now that the pol­lu­tion score is higher we have to be more care­ful,” said Ora­nart Phong­preecha, 55, a housewife who lives just out­side of Bangkok.

“It’s not that I get sick more of­ten. But when I go out­side, I have a sore throat and I can’t see clearly. ... I’m afraid that pol­luted air is go­ing into my lungs so I have to pro­tect my­self.”

Pra­long Dum­rongthai, head of the Thai Pol­lu­tion Con­trol De­part­ment, said long-term so­lu­tions would in­clude switch­ing to use of elec­tric ve­hi­cles and bet­ter qual­ity gaso­line.

He said the weather pat­terns suggested that Bangkok might be stuck with bad air for up to three months.

Pol­lu­tion gen­er­ally is out of con­trol by the time coun­tries take ac­tion. In­dia’s cities are among the world’s smog­gi­est and it is just start­ing to tackle the prob­lem.

World’s smog­gi­est

The In­dian gov­ern­ment on Sun­day an­nounced a five-year pro­gram to cut air pol­lu­tion by up to 30 per­cent from 2017 lev­els in the coun­try’s 102 worstaf­fected cities.

Key tar­gets in­clude re­duc­ing burn­ing of field waste, fire­wood and char­coal, clean­ing up ther­mal power and auto emis­sions and heav­ily pol­lut­ing brick pro­duc­tion and con­trol­ling dust from con­struc­tion.


DIRTY AIR Po­lice of­fi­cers wear­ing masks stand guard in heavy smog in Seoul, South Ko­rea, on Mon­day.

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