While it’s been some great months breathing “healthy” air through face masks, it only takes looking skyward to see those days are over.
Bangkok yesterday at noon saw its worst air quality since late April, according to tracking indices. That’s likely a sign of days to come, as year’s end means the return of seasonal air pollution that’s been acute for the past three years.
The smog has been building for the past month, with more days leaving “healthy” territory, according to pollution data. That came after about four months of quality breathing that began in June, according to our daily sampling of data from IQ Air recorded mid-day since Jan. 1.
Bangkok Gov. Aswin Kwanmuang said yesterday that his team is talking with relevant agencies about the issue, which is likely to reemerge again during the Thai winter of December through February.
Some of the measures to be taken this winter include banning large trucks from Bangkok’s roads between 6am and 9pm, from Dec. 1 through Feb. 28 while schools will be asked to halt outdoor activities in the same period of time. If the smog spikes to “unhealthy” level three days in a row, according to Aswin, the City Hall will consider closing schools.
Automobile engines are frequently blamed by officials. However, when road traffic fell by about 60% in March and April after the pandemic semi-lockdown was imposed, there was no commensurate decline in air pollution.
Bangkok isn’t the only locale to be suffering from smog. Provinces including Chiang Mai also choke under a shroud of wintertime smoke, which usually worsens in February due to unregulated agricultural burning. Varawuth Silpa-archa, minister of Natural Resources and Environment, said next week he will hold a national meeting to find the best solutions to tackling the problems.
In recent years, volleys of soaring rhetoric and determined words haven’t translated into less smog. Instead, officials have resorted to superficial, face-saving steps such as staging photo ops of drones sprinkling sugar water.
The air quality has noticeably worsened since January, 2018, when a grey and yellow mass obscured the capital, which quickly became one of the world’s most-polluted cities. Environmental organization Greenpeace has called out authorities to take more serious action than planting trees and installing air purifiers.
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