Govt calls meeting on haze

Govt calls meeting on haze

20 March 2010

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ASEAN —  Five countries affected by haze in the region will meet in Thailand next week to step up efforts to tackle the air pollution problem.

The meeting was called by the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Natural Resources and Environment, which have invited Cambodia, Laos, Burma and Vietnam to discuss their experiences.

Supat Wangwongwattana, chief of the Pollution Control Department, said his agency would provide information about the haze situation in the Mekong region to diplomats attending the meeting.

“Thailand alone would not be able to deal with the problem, as it has spread over the region. We need cooperation from all levels,” Mr Supat said yesterday.

Regional cooperation among the Mekong countries on transboundary haze management could not deal with the problem effectively, mainly due to budget constraints.

Haze-affected countries needed to find other options, as the pollution was causing serious respiratory problems for some people and was leading to an increase in hospital admissions.

Mr Supat said his agency had asked the army to raise the haze issue at border committee meetings.

The environment ministry would put the haze problem on the agenda of the Mekong River Commission meeting in Hua Hin next month.

The pollution control chief said haze would continue to shroud the northern and some central provinces until next month.

Haze is caused by small dust particles emitted from forest fires and burning in open areas. Satellite images show several “hotspots” where forest fires and farmland burning have taken place, he said.

Mr Supat said the government campaign against slash-and-burn farming and open-air waste burning was not working.

The department yesterday reported that small dust particle levels in six provinces exceeded the safety standard of 120 microgrammes per cubic metre. The six provinces were Mae Hong Son, Chiang Rai, Lamphun, Phayao, Saraburi, and Samut Prakan.

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