HM wants daily reports on situation in North

His Majesty the King has voiced concern over the haze situation in the North as the air quality in several northern provinces is poised to reach danger levels.

Amnat Decha, caretaker of the Phuping Palace in Chiang Mai, said yesterday that His Majesty had instructed that reports on the haze situation in the northernmost provinces be sent to the Royal Household Bureau every day.

If the situation does not improve, the King would order artificial rain-making to help relieve air pollution in the haze-hit provinces, said Mr Amnat.

In a bid to fight the haze, the Public Health Ministry is to send 200,000 face masks to the areas to protect people from air pollution caused by dust particles smaller than 10 microns in diameter, also known as PM10, that come with the haze, said Public Health Minister Chaiya Sasomsab.

Pollution Control Department chief Supat Wangwongwatana said heavy dust in northern provinces is closely related to “hot spots” found in the country and also in neighbouring countries, referring to areas at risk of forest fires.

“We have found that the number of hot spots in Indochina was getting high on March 22 with 952, and gradually dropped to 575 and only 271 on March 24. Moreover, we have made strong and effective efforts to clear and control hot spots, which helps improve the situation,” he said.

However, higher humidity in the air should minimise the dust’s impact.

Spokesman for the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry Pichet Wangtepanukhor said the ministry has been working closely with the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry to deal with the problem, especially fire prevention in paddy fields. However, rain was arriving in many areas and this has helped to reduce the dust problem.

Among the haze-affected provinces, Mae Hong Son has been hardest hit due to wildfires.

The level of dust in the province was yesterday measured at 134 microgrammes per cubic metre, higher than the safe level of 120 microgrammes per cu m, according to the Pollution Control Department.

At the same time, the province’s air quality level was measured at 106 on the Air Quality Index, which is higher than the safety level of 100.

Outside Mae Hong Son town, wildfires could be seen raging upon high mountains at night, especially in Ban Nam Kad and Ban Huai Phung.

Mae Hong Son deputy governor Wanchai Sutthiworachai said forest fires had broken out frequently this summer.

The latest was on Monday night, when a fire broke out in a public park in Muang district and more than 60 provincial authorities in the province spent over two hours putting out the fire.

Triroj Nawamarat, manager of Thai Airways International office in Mae Hong Son, said THAI had had to cancel a flight scheduled to land at Mae Hong Son airport at 11am yesterday due to poor visibility at the airport, which was measured at 1,200 metres, far below the safe visibility level for commercial aircraft of between 3,000 and 3,500 metres.

The chief of the meteorological office in Mae Hong Son, Thada Sattha, said haze in the northern province was mostly caused by forest burning in Pai, Pang Ma Pha and Muang districts.

However, in Chiang Mai, deputy governor Wiboon Sanguanphong insisted the air conditions in the province were still far from hazardous and that the haze has not yet driven tourists away.

He believed rain would help ease the dust level in Chiang Mai’s air within 14 days.

The deputy governor added that wildfires in Chiang Mai recently broke out in Hot, Mae Chaem and Omkoi districts where corn farmers usually burnt their fields after the harvest season.

Nevertheless, adviser to the Association of Chiang Mai Tourism and Hotel Businesses Bunlert Buranupakorn said advance bookings for hotels in Chiang Mai this and next month have dropped by 20%.

He believed this was due to tourists’ concern over their health and environmental conditions in Chiang Mai.

Written by: Cheewin Sattha, Theerawat Khamthita & Apinya Wipatayotin

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on the Pollution Control Website from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment