Heavy smog hits northern Thailand as government calls for help to tackle air pollution | Science and the planet

Heavy smog has hit northern Thailand. The Thai government has asked the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to help tackle persistent severe air pollution in the country.

A thick layer of polluted haze has been hovering over northern Thailand for several weeks. According to the Ministry of Health, more than 1.7 million people suffer from health problems. Most people need hospital treatment for breathing problems and sore throats.

farmers

The Thai city of Chiang Mai currently tops IQAir’s ranking of the world’s most air polluted cities. Smog is mainly caused by the burning of farmland.

People wearing anti-particle mouth masks in Bangkok. © ANP / EPA

Many farmers in Thailand – but also in neighboring countries such as Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos – use the technique of fire farming, in which fields are burned at the end of the dry season to remove stubble and weeds. Between January and March, there are often high concentrations of particulate matter in the area.

fueled by large forest fires

The problem has now been exacerbated by a major forest fire in the northeastern province of Nakhon Nayok. An area of ​​no less than 800,000 square meters of forest was already on fire, the equivalent of a hundred football fields. Two areas have been declared an emergency area.

A picture of a forest fire in the northeastern province of Nakhon Nayok.
A picture of a forest fire in the northeastern province of Nakhon Nayok. © AFP

tourism

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan Oo Cha stressed during a meeting with Kao Kim Horn, the Cambodian Secretary-General of ASEAN, that the smog problem concerns the entire region. The prime minister said, according to the Bangkok Post, that the toxic air not only causes health problems, but also affects tourism in Thailand and neighboring countries.

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Thailand wants ASEAN to play a role in coordinating efforts to solve the problem. The prime minister also requested an emergency meeting with member states.

A picture of a forest fire in the northeastern province of Nakhon Nayok.
A picture of a forest fire in the northeastern province of Nakhon Nayok. ©AP

Denton Watson

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