Haze puts city on red alert

Rain­mak­ing to be­gin this week to clear air

Bangkok Post - - FRONT PAGE -

The gov­ern­ment is step­ping up ef­forts to fight the wors­en­ing, detri­men­tal ef­fects of air pol­lu­tion caused by the fine dust that has blighted Bangkok and sur­round­ing ar­eas since late last year. Au­thor­i­ties are set to de­ploy two air­craft with ar­ti­fi­cial rain­mak­ing tech­nol­ogy to cre­ate down­pours in the east of Bangkok this evening, with the aim of clear­ing the air in one of the worsthit quar­ters of the city. Ac­cord­ing to the Pol­lu­tion Con­trol De­part­ment (PCD), var­i­ous ar­eas of Bangkok and its vicin­ity are suf­fer­ing a huge vol­ume of PM2.5 pol­lu­tion par­ti­cles that ex­ceeds the Thai safety limit of 50 mi­cro­grammes per cu­bic me­tre (μg/m³). PM2.5 lev­els in the city ranged be­tween 70 and 100 μg/m³, ac­cord­ing to read­ings taken by 10 air qual­ity sta­tions in Bangkok at 6pm yes­ter­day. Surasee Kit­ti­mon­ton, chief of the Royal Rain­mak­ing and Agri­cul­tural Avi­a­tion De­part­ment, said yes­ter­day that, depend­ing on weather con­di­tions, rain­mak­ing is likely to be con­ducted be­gin to­day and run un­til at least Fri­day. Two rain­mak­ing Casa air­craft will be de­ployed from Ray­ong air­port, he said. “The rain­mak­ing will be con­ducted in Cha­cho­engsao and it is ex­pected that rain will fall in Bangkok in the evening,” said Mr Surasee. “Rain will fall in the eastern ar­eas, such as Bang Na, Sai Mai, Lat Kra­bang and Bang Kapi.” Mean­while, Royal Thai Air Force chief Chaiyapruk Didyasarin in­structed his dis­as­ter mit­i­ga­tion unit to dis­patch two BT-67 air­craft to Wing 6 in Don Muang dis­trict to be fit­ted with equip­ment to re­lease a fine aque­ous mist over af­fected ar­eas, ac­cord­ing to air force spokesman AM Pongsak Semachai. The tar­get ar­eas and flight plans will be ironed out once the planes are ready, the spokesman said. Prime Min­is­ter Prayut Chan-ocha was moved to speak on the is­sue dur­ing his trip in Chi­ang Mai after re­ports high­lighted the risks to health that the fine par­ti­cles can cause. “Cam­paigns must be raised to pro­mote the use of face masks and wa­ter must be sprayed in the ar­eas where the vol­ume of dust is be­yond the safety limit,” said Gen Prayut, adding that the causes of the prob­lem must be ad­dressed too. The Pub­lic Health Min­istry has been in­structed to hand out N95 face masks to peo­ple in the worst-hit lo­ca­tions, Mr Bud­dhipongse said. Stan­dard face masks do not pro­vide suf­fi­cient pro­tec­tion against such fine par­ti­cles, ac­cord­ing to the Bangkok Metropoli­tan Ad­min­is­tra­tion (BMA). Bangkok gover­nor Aswin Kwan­muang said yes­ter­day he has teams work­ing on both short- and long-term mea­sures to ad­dress the prob­lem. The BMA will con­tinue to clean roads, pave­ments and routes where the con­struc­tion of elec­tric train projects is un­der way as well as spray wa­ter into the air, he said. “Con­struc­tion sites will be told to find ways to pre­vent the spread of dust and peo­ple will be banned from burn­ing rub­bish or grass out­doors,” he noted. In the long run, elec­tric train con­struc­tion projects must be ex­pe­dited to re­duce air pol­lu­tion, he said. Ac­cord­ing to the gover­nor, 10,000 N95 face masks will be pro­vided to peo­ple in ar­eas where lev­els of PM2.5 pol­lu­tants are high, in­clud­ing Lumpini, Bang Khunthian, Chatuchak and Ratchapra­song. Mean­while, a meet­ing of t he Na­tional Coun­cil for Peace and Or­der’s sec­re­tariat of­fice yes­ter­day also dis­cussed air pol­lu­tion in Bangkok. The meet­ing was chaired by deputy army chief Nat­tapol Nak­panich. Ac­cord­ing to deputy army spokes­woman Sirichan Ngath­ong, Gen Nat­tapol in­structed of­fi­cers to map out short-, medium- and long-term plans to deal with the is­sue. Col Sirichan added that 60 mil­i­tary fire en­gines would be­gin spray­ing wa­ter in var­i­ous city ar­eas last night, in­clud­ing Silom, Sathon, Wit­thayu and Pratu­nam ar­eas. This op­er­a­tion will run un­til at least Wednes­day evening. Manas Kam­n­erd­ma­nee, deputy chief of the Royal Ir­ri­gation De­part­ment, said lo­cal ad­min­is­tra­tive bod­ies must in­form condo and high-rise con­struc­tors to in­stall sprin­klers to help clear PM2.5 par­ti­cles from the air around their sites. Boon­rak Yod­phet, sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the Of­fice of Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mis­sion, said he had in­structed schools in af­fected ar­eas to avoid al­low­ing stu­dents to par­tic­i­pate in out­door ac­tiv­i­ties for the time be­ing.

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