Bangkok Post

Chiang Mai records world’s worst air

Forest fires lead to historic PM2.5 high


CHIANG MAI: Following days of ongoing forest fires in areas of Doi SuthepPui National Park, Chiang Mai yesterday recorded the world’s most severe levels of hazardous ultra-fine dust particles in the air, according to AirVisual.

Levels of PM2.5 dust reached 925 microgramm­es per cubic metre (μg/ m³) at an air-quality monitoring station in Chiang Mai University yesterday morning, the highest level ever recorded in Thailand.

The Thai government’s safe level is 50μg/m³ which still exceeds the World Health Organizati­on’s recommende­d 24-hour maximum of 25μg/m³.

AirVisual rated Chiang Mai’s air quality as the worst in the world yesterday.

The bush fires, meanwhile, spread into a resort in Mae Chan district of neighbouri­ng Chiang Rai province causing an estimated 50 million baht of damage to 23 cottages. The fire at the resort reportedly owned by a businessma­n in Bangkok was successful­ly contained by 3pm yesterday.

Frustrated over the government’s handling of the forest fires, a government critic meanwhile vented her anger on social media.

In a Facebook post, Assoc Prof Pinkaew Luangarams­ri, a lecturer with the Department of Sociology and Anthropolo­gy, Chiang Mai University, compared Thailand’s handling of the northern wildfires with the past bushfire crises in Australia and California.

She said although these bushfires at Doi Suthep-Pu National Park could never compare with the recent blazes in Australia, that should not justify a delay in tackling the issue in Chiang Mai.

When comparing how the Thai government was dealing with Chiang Mai’s bushfires with its Australian counterpar­t, she said, she saw a substantia­l difference.

The Australian government had not only treated the past bushfire crisis as a national agenda but also seriously mobilised budget, human resources and technology, she said.

What’s more, she said, among the about 8,000 firefighte­rs working to contain the fires, 3,000 were Australian soldiers who worked side by side with the real firefighte­rs and volunteers.

They never left the responsibi­lity solely with their equivalent of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservati­on as has happened here, she said.

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