Bangkok Post

Air quality in North ‘critical’


Air pollution across the upper North remains at critical levels with authoritie­s monitoring almost 400 active hotspots in Chiang Mai alone yesterday.

Government spokeswoma­n Narumon Pinyosinwa­t said fires have undoubtedl­y affected air quality, with 17 provinces in the North reporting an increase in levels of hazardous, ultrafine PM2.5 pollutants yesterday.

Only Nakhon Sawan and Uthai Thani reported PM2.5 readings below the Pollution Control Department’s “safe” threshold, set at 50 microgramm­es per cubic metre (μg/m³).

Chiang Dao district in Chiang Mai reported the highest PM2.5 reading in the North yesterday at 360μg/m³.

Ms Narumon said the worsening pollution is caused by a combinatio­n of factors which include arson, drought and prevailing wind patterns which trap pollutants right above Thailand.

According to satellite data from the Geo-Informatic­s and Space Technology Developmen­t Agency (Gistda), as of Saturday, there were 3,809 hotspots in Thailand, 5,061 in Laos and 10,061 in Myanmar.

As of yesterday, 398 hotspots — or almost 10% of the country’s hotspots — were found in Chiang Mai.

Most of the blazes were related to an ongoing bushfire in Doi Suthep-Pui

National Park in Chiang Mai’s Muang district, which suddenly raged out of control late on Saturday after burning for about a week.

Authoritie­s deployed four helicopter­s to combat the blaze, while drones and paraglider­s were sent to help detect hotspots and suspicious activities among villagers, who have been blamed for starting the forest fires to clear land for agricultur­e.

A source said that after several fires near Hmong villages within the park and in nearby Hang Dong district were found to have been deliberate­ly set, local villagers in the area have been instructed not to engage in slash-andburn farming until April 30.

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