Bangkok’s smoggiest months are back – and could get worse

A file photo of smog cloaking Bangkok. Photo: Harshil Shah
A file photo of smog cloaking Bangkok. Photo: Harshil Shah

That grey or yellow pall in the sky isn’t winter fog coming to make merry, but instead an omen of Bangkok’s peak smog season, and the usual year-end choke could be worsened by the city’s rush back to normal.

The usual pollution that dips mid-year only to peak November to April is ticking back up, and the year overall has been smoggier than 2020, so far, according to pollution data we record daily.

During the first lockdown last year, activity slowed considerably, and air pollution fell. But it returned with a vengeance this year, with May double what it was the year prior, on average.

Meanwhile, the misery is returning to Bangkok’s infamous road traffic, which had been negligible for the better part of two years; tourists are flying in once again and Thailand swings toward normal despite an ongoing pandemic that has killed 20,000 people.

Seasonal air pollution has ramped up in the past seven years, with no meaningful government response to secure public health. Instead, water-spraying drones and other media-moment gimmicks have been fielded. 

Cutting the pollution, namely dangerous PM2.5 particles, isn’t impossible but takes a comprehensive and practical approach focused on its primary sources – automobiles, factories and agriculture. 

Until that happens, here are a few things we could do to help improve the air quality.

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