Seasonal haze eases in northern provinces

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LAMPANG, Feb 20 – The thick haze and smog covering Thailand’s northern provinces, particularly Lampang and Chiang Mai, on Monday improved dramatically owing to downpours.

Lampang Governor Booncherd Kidhen said that the air pollution crisis here returned to normal as the rain helped reduce haze, clearing particulate matter from the atmosphere. He admitted that Lampang this year is severely blanketed by a thick haze, and smog exceeding the safety limits to 230 microgrammes per cubic metre.

A major cause of the haze problem resulted from open air burning activities, Mr Booncherd explained, adding that the province has initiated measures to strictly control burning activities in all 13 districts, with the ban remaining in place until April to prevent a recurrence of the haze.

Agencies relevant to forest fire control and the local administrative organisations were assigned to provide equipment and budget to brace for possible smog and forest fire in subdistricts and villages as well as integrating fire response operations immediately and efficiently.

The governor warned that persons starting illegal burning activities in the province will be charged for violating Royal Forest Department law and may be sentenced to as much as 15 years in jail and be fined Bt100,000 maximum. Violators will be charged and must compensate all damages in line with the Enhancement and Conservation of the National Environmental Quality Act B.E. 2535.

In a related development, Chiang Mai Mayor Tassanai Buranupakorn led municipal officials, police officers and other civil servants from a provincial natural resources and environmental office to the downtown Tha Pae gate to inspect vehicles with excessive black vehicular exhaust as well as campaigning against the ongoing air pollution which was higher than the safety standard.

Mr Tassanai said that although the suspended particulate matter and other hazardous dust particles on Monday declined to 50-80 microns per cubic metre, Chiang Mai municipality continued spraying water at each location to reduce the dust to prevent a recurrence of the crisis.

Meanwhile, the mayor also asked for cooperation from contractors to control dust from construction sites and called for residents to refrain from burning activities.

Municipal and provincial authorities will apply all measures to tackle air pollution in order not to inconvenience tourists, the mayor said.