Premier orders urgent action to tackle haze in North
28 February 2012
published by www.bangkokpost.com
Thailand –Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra instructed the ministries of Natural Resources and Environment and the Interior on Monday to urgently tackle the haze crisis gripping the North.
Ms Yingluck yesterday met environmental officials at the Royal Forest Department where she discussed the haze situation affecting eight northern provinces.
She ordered the Royal Forest Department and the Pollution Control Department under the Environment Ministry to work with the Interior Ministry to solve the dust problem which has posed a health threat to residents for over a week.
The prime minister’s call for action comes as the levels of particulate matter smaller than 10 microns in the northern provinces continued to rise yesterday. The haze crisis was most severe in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district where the PM10 level hit 295.5 microgrammes per cubic metre (ug/cu m), followed by Phayao’s Muang district (278.7), Chiang Rai’s Muang district (253.7), and Lampang’s Mae Mo district (199.1).
The Northern Royal Rainmaking Centre Tuesday began a cloud-seeding operation to generate rainfall in the affected areas to increase air humidity.
In Lampang, the army deployed soldiers to help douse wild fires in Mae Mo district, while public health authorities distributed 30,000 face masks to state hospitals in all 12 districts.
The number of residents seeking medical treatment for eye irritations and respiratory diseases had increased about 20%, said Lampang public health chief Sirichai Pattaranupaporn.
In Chiang Mai, governor ML Panadda Diskul yesterday instructed schools in haze-affected areas to cancel outdoor activities to limit children’s exposure to the dust.
ML Panadda said the province has also set up rapid-response teams which will control fires on farmland and in forests which usually occur in the evenings.
In Phayao province, local authorities have complained about a shortage of manpower in fighting forest fires.
Worapoj Pongsamai, chief of the provincial environmental office, said there are only 37 forest fire control staff in the province and they had to cover all nine districts.
“It is very difficult to control forest fires in the province with such small numbers of people,” Mr Worapoj said.