Smog chokes Thai capital for over a week

BANGKOK (AP) — Unhealthy levels of smog have choked Bangkok for more than a week, as the Thai capital’s residents fume over the ineffectiveness of government measures to combat the problem.

As thick haze blanketted the city yesterday, pollution levels soared to 95 microgrammes per cubic metre of PM2.5 particle at noon in some areas, according to the government’s Pollution Control Department, which described that level as very unhealthy.

The maximum level considered safe by the government is 50. PM2.5 particles are small enough to penetrate deeply into the lungs, which can cause both short-term bronchial problems as well as serious long-term health issues.

Bangkok’s smog crisis results from still air and an excessive amount of ultrafine dust from vehicle emissions and other activities, Pollution Control Department Director-General Pralong Damrongthai explained in yesterday’s press release.

He said smog is being trapped close to the ground by a blanket of warm air in what meteorologists call an inversion.

Bangkok residents have grown frustrated with the lack of progress in improving the situation.

Burning of fields is cited as the main reason for smog outside of Bangkok, with provinces in the central and northern regions of Thailand also blanketted in haze.

The Pollution Control Department issued a 52-page national action plan in October for combatting dust pollution problems. The plan mostly included guidelines for government agencies, but also discussed possible precautions and ways to measure pollutants.

Tara Buakamsri of the environmental group Greenpeace said the current situation shows the government’s strategy is failing.

Tara also said the official maximum “safe level” of PM2.5 of 50 microgrammes per cubic metre over 24 hours was set too high.

A thick layer of smog covers central Bangkok, Thailand. PHOTO: AP