Severe haze has returned to Bangkok city, and worsened

The Pollution Control Department (PCD) has warned people to follow the situation closely and refrain from outdoor activities

The surge of the fine dust particles of 2.5 micrometres and less in diameter, PM 2.5, has been observed since yesterday as their concentration levels used to indicate the severity have exceptionally increased and become widespread.

The department has detected that the dust concentrations today are between 47 to 81 micrograms per cubic meter, up from yesterday’s measurement, which stood at 40-71. The safe concentration level determined by the department is at 50 micrograms per cu m while the WHO’s is at 25.

Out of 48 monitoring stations, 45 have been indentified to have the concentration levels of PM 2.5 beyond the safe level, which have started to have affects on people’s health.

During the month of December, the start of winter when the air would typically become stagnant, concentration levels of PM 2.5 were reportedly slightly up in some areas and returned to normal, according to the source.

Thailand awakened to the extent of the problem just a few years ago when the PCD fully rolled out devices to detect and measure the particles in areas throughout Bangkok, revealing shocking facts of such high concentrations of the particles.

The country’s haze problem has also been exacerbated by field clearings and burnings in the North and neighbouring countries and further down South.

To deal with the problem, the government has come up with phases of operation, in line with the severity of the dust concentrations, with the level beyond 100 micrograms per cu m being addressed as “emergency”

In the city like Bangkok, diesel-driven vehicles have been identified as the prime cause of the haze due to their incomplete combustion, followed by sprawling construction sites and other dust generating activities.

According to the Thailand Development Research Institute’s Transportation and Logistics Policy Department, the number of vehicles in Bangkok jumped over the past 10 years, from around 2.9 million personal and small transport vehicles in 2008 to around 5.56 million vehicles by 2017. 

Of these, 38 per cent, or around 2.1 million, are diesel-fuelled. As of last year, the number of vehicles in Bangkok rose up to 10 million, with 2.7 million being identified as diesel-fuelled.

Anti-air pollution experts have called for more stringent measures and so far the govenment has introduced the national agenda and action plan to addreess the problem.

But measures implemented and the degree of success have hardly been addressed to the public, prompting them to be skeptical about the plan.

Today’s morning, Bangkok was ranked by Air Visual as the world’s ninth worst haze pollution city with the US Air Quality Index at 169.