Because of persistent smog in large parts of Thailand, more and more people need medical treatment. Almost 200,000 new patients were added this week alone, the Bangkok Post newspaper quoted State Secretary for Public Health Grandpa Karnkawinpong as saying. Since the beginning of the month, more than five million people have been diagnosed with diseases directly related to the massive air pollution. Many suffered from respiratory problems.
15 provinces, especially in the north of the country, are particularly affected. Dangerous fine dust levels prevailed in the tourist stronghold Chiang Mai and in the capital Bangkok.
Yellow-grey cloud of haze
A cloud of yellow-grey haze has been hanging over Bangkok, which has eleven million inhabitants and is a magnet for tourists from all over the world, under the actually cloudless sky for days. The iconic skyscrapers were also shrouded in a dense fog of smog. The cloud of haze in the capital consists of exhaust gases from vehicles and industry, but also from the smoke that arises when harvested fields are burned.
These slash-and-burn practices are not only found in Thailand, but also in neighboring countries such as Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. At the end of the dry season, farmers burn their fields to clear undergrowth and weeds. Therefore, between January and March there are often high levels of particulate matter.
During similar levels of air pollution in late January and early February, Bangkok authorities urged residents to work from home. A spokesman for Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt said a similar order would be issued if the situation continued to deteriorate. Before his election in May last year, the governor promised to improve environmental conditions in Bangkok.
Checkpoints were set up in the city to pull vehicles with particularly high exhaust emissions off the road. Dust-free zones, i.e. rooms equipped with air purifiers, have been set up in state day-care centres.
The Bangkok Ministry of Health announced on Wednesday that harmful concentrations of the particularly dangerous fine dust category PM2.5 had been measured in 50 districts. These dust particles are so small that they enter the human bloodstream and deep into the lungs.