Mae Hong Son bears haze blanket’s brunt

Mae Hong Son bears haze blanket’s brunt

18 March 2010

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Thailand —  Haze continues to blanket upper northern provinces with Mae Hong Son being hardest hit.

The level of particulate matter (PM10) in five provinces yesterday was far above the safety standard of 120, the Pollution Control Department said.

The PM10 level in Mae Hong Son reached a peak recording of 437.8 microgrammes per cubic metres, a sharp increase from 244 on Monday.

The dust haze is made up of tiny particles with a size of less than 10 micrometres. These particles can easily enter the lungs. Doctors have warned people to wear face masks when outdoors.

Lamphun’s highest reading yesterday was 350.3, Chiang Rai’s 328, Chiang Mai’s 279.9, and Phayao’s 271, the department said.

“We have never seen [levels] this high in Mae Hong Son before,” said Pramin Wattanawaree, chief of the environment office in the province. “The situation is in deep crisis.”

As many as 2,000 people suffering from respiratory symptoms such as asthma have been admitted to Chiang Rai Prachanukhro Hospital in Chiang Rai’s Muang district.

Forest and farm land burn-offs locally and in neighbouring countries were the main source of the problem plaguing the five provinces, Mr Pramin said.

He did not name the countries but his supervisor in Bangkok, Siripong Hungspreug, natural resources and environment deputy permanent secretary, said Thailand wanted to cooperate with Laos and Burma to tackle the problem.

“We will submit a letter to Laos and Burma asking for their cooperation on the issue,” Mr Siripong said.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has agreed to closer cooperation among the 10 members to deal with the haze and smog problem, which is regarded as a trans-boundary issue.

Information obtained by satellite shows there were 1,334 hot spots in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam on Tuesday, a sharp rise from 682 on Monday. Most of the hot spots were in Burma, followed by Thailand.

“If people continue to light fires, it will be very difficult to control the situation,” Mr Pramin said.

The official also warned that it was unlikely the problem would be resolved soon. “The worst thing is that the old pressure from China covering the North will become a major obstacle for the particles’ dispersal,” he said.

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