Disaster zone status could go soon

Disaster zone status could go soon

23 March 2007

published by www.bangkokpost.net

Thailand — The government panel in charge of clearing the haze blanketingthe North will next week consider whether to take Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, andMae Hong Son provinces off the list of disaster zones, Deputy Prime MinisterPaiboon Wattanasiritham said yesterday. The move came after monitoring agenciesreported an improvement in the situation in the provinces with haze that hasbeen smothering the region over recent weeks beginning to dissipate.

The level of dust particles smaller than 10 microns in Chiang Mai’s Mae Rimdistrict has dropped to 64 microgrammes per cubic metre (ug/cu m), while inLampang, the level has dropped to 55 ug/cu m.

However, air pollution in Mae Hong Son still remains at a dangerous level,way above the recommended maximum of 120 ug/cu m.

Measurements taken in Muang district yesterday logged the level of dangerousdust particles at 166 ug/cu m.

No new data was available for Chiang Rai as the particulate matter gaugingdevice has stopped working. The latest report on March 19 measured dust levelsin Chiang Rai’s Muang district at a dangerous 201 ug/cu m.

”We will assess the situation again next week to see whether we shouldrevoke the disaster-zone status, and try to find long-term solutions for theproblem,” said Mr Paiboon, the panel’s chairman.

Chiang Rai was the first province to be declared a disaster zone on March 14due to the thick haze, followed by Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son, which weredeclared disaster zones on March 19.

Residents across the affected provinces have been complaining of respiratoryillnesses and sore eyes.

The government declared the areas disaster zones to help along operations toclear the smoke and create public awareness of the necessity to stop open-airburn-offs.

Puchong Insomphun, head of Chiang Mai provincial environmental office, saidthe overall situation in Chiang Mai city had improved. However, staff wouldstick to the anti-haze measures including a ban on burning activities in openfields, an increase of landfill sites to reduce rubbish burning activities, andincreased forest fire controls.

Prinya Sudhikoses, head of the special artificial rainmaking operation unit,said rain-making operations over Chiang Mai had yielded results and his unit wasplanning to extend its mission to Mae Hong Son.

During the first two days of the operation, which began on Tuesday, the unitwas able to build up rain clouds by using the rainmaking formula designed by HisMajesty the King, he said.

Yesterday, rainmaking operations brought rainfall to Tak’s Tha Song Yangdistrict, Lampang’s Hang Chat district, and northern areas of Chiang Mai. ”Humidityin the air has now increased to 60% which is enough for the rainmaking operation,”said Mr Prinya.

”We will assess our operation every seven days before deciding whether weshould shift to other areas in need.”

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