Royal unit to treat haze victims

Royal unit to treat haze victims

28 March 2008

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Thailand — His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn has assigned a medical unit to treat people made ill by smoke haze from widespread bushfires in Mae Hong Son province, one of the worst hit areas in the North. Dr Suwat Kittidilokkul said yesterday his team would provide treatment in hospitals and medical centres in seven districts of Mae Hong Son.

They would also distribute 45,000 face masks to affected people, he said.

The level of dust particles less than 10 microns in diameter, known as PM10, was measured at 134 microgrammes per cubic metre in the province yesterday, well above the safe level of 120 microgrammes.

Royal Household Bureau assistant secretary-general Disthorn Watcharothai said His Majesty the King, who is concerned about the well-being of people in the haze-hit provinces, has suggested the Department of Polution Control set up another air quality monitoring centre at Phuping Palace in Chiang Mai, in addition to the two centres already in existence in the province.

Mr Disthorn arrived at the Royal Rainmaking Centre for the Upper North in Chiang Mai yesterday. He was briefed by the staff on whether continued rainmaking efforts could improve the air quality and ease the drought in the North.

Mr Disthorn said Chiang Mai’s air quality had improved greatly, compared to the same period last year. The PM10 dust level had topped the safety level only twice _ on Feb 14 and on Monday.

To keep air quality in the North within safe limits, the bureau has instructed the Chiang Mai-based rainmaking centre to make artificial rain every day in seven northernmost provinces. The centre currently makes six rainmaking flights daily.

Mr Disthorn said that if the haze situation did not improve soon, the flight frequency could be raised to 18 per day.

The PM10 dust levels as measured in Chiang Mai yesterday ranged from 74 microgrammes per cu m to 115.3.

Some provinces in the North are also experiencing drought.

The Agriculture and Agriculture Cooperatives Ministry has decided to release more water from the Bhumibol and Sirikit dams to ease the water shortage in Tak and Uttaradit provinces, as well as to meet rising demand for water in the Chao Phraya basin.

Agriculture Minister Somsak Prissananantakul said water demand from both the agricultural and industrial sectors was higher this year than last year.

He warned there would not be enough water to feed additional areas earmarked for cultivation of second rice crops.

Farmers were advised to cancel any plans for second-crop farming if they have not already started. There would not be enough water to properly irrigate their crops, he said.

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