Air is dirty in Thailand, Pioneer flies to see it

The atmosphere far north has become so polluted, the minister went to see in person what’s being called a health crisis.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha arrived in Chiang Mai and also a favorite tourist destination with an army base.

The mountains that surround the city have been hidden by the thick gray smoky air, and several colleges have closed. Pollution levels have jumped to the zone and remained there for weeks, putting the city at the top of the listing of the world’s most polluted cities although readings often fluctuate by time of day.

A lot of the pollution has been brought on by the burning of forest undergrowth from villagers to make it more easy to collect mushrooms and products available. The burning happens during the night, light the skies but making it hard to catch the perpetrators.

The town is particularly vulnerable because the mountains that encircle it trap the contamination.

The problem continues to be worse this year. In several weeks, farmers are expected to start them to clear for planting, prompting the contamination.

Prayuth handed out firefighting supplies such as hoes and told firefighters and local personnel that he traveled to show his support.

He stated the fires have to be controlled within seven days and met with representatives from eight states in an pollution monitoring center.

“We need to operate on a long-term remedy with understanding from the public,” he explained. “We want time to change the way we grow crops and farm. Tens of millions of people could be affected. It could cause insanity and confusion. We’ll work on the immediate issues and strategy for long term alternatives.”

There has been widespread criticism of the government’s reaction so far, with roughly 40,000 individuals signing a Change.org request calling for the Senate’s replacement. The government was hesitant to announce a state of emergency, in part because of the potential effect.

Amounts of tiny airborne particulates called PM2.5 in Chiang Mai and surrounding regions exceed 300 mcg. Six times the Thai safety limit, and also have peaked at about 700. PM2.5 particulates are small enough to become pumped deep into the lungs and enter the blood, and can lead to respiratory problems and over time can raise risks of cardiovascular disease and cancers.

Khuanchai Supparatpinyo, manager of the Research Institute of Health Sciences in Chiang Mai University, told The Associated Press that Chiang Mai state has suffered the annual phenomenon known as”dust period” for over a decade. The haze utilized to hit to March, but Khuanchai said in recent years it could last as many as five months due to conditions like dryer air and industrial farming.

In January, over 400 schools in the capital, Bangkok, were closed for a week once the PM2.5 level was around 70 to 120 mcg. Bangkok’s governor reacted by declaring the town a”pollution control zone,” allowing measures such as street closings and constraints on diesel exhaust, outdoor burning and building activities.

Air quality in Bangkok, the biggest town of Thailand, has been at medium levels since an issue, then for people with sensitivities such as existing lung ailments.

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Tassanee reported from Bangkok. Associated Press author Kaweewit Kaewjinda in Bangkok contributed to the story.