Thailand — A total of 31 pollution hotspots have been identified as haze continues to blanket upper northern provinces.
The Department of Pollution Control yesterday said it found 32 hotspots in the North from information obtained by satellite. Of the hotspots, 15 were found in conservation forest areas and the 16 others in forest reserve areas.
In Tak alone, there were 14 hotspots, four each in Lampang, Nan and Mae Hong Son and three each in Chiang Mai and Phrae.
The department has asked Tak provincial authorities and relevant agencies to control farmers’ slash-and-burn activities to reduce haze and thick smoke in the province before the situation becomes worse and affects people living along the Thai-Myanmar border areas.
Udomsak Palakawong na Ayudhya, the chief of the forest fire control station in Tak’s Mae Sot district, said yesterday more than 100 rai of forest areas have been burned by forest fires, causing thick smoke and haze to blanket Tak province.
The haze will pose health problems to local residents, with some people suffering from respiratory problems. Some flights to this northern province had been delayed or cancelled due to poor visibility caused by thick smoke.
The level of harmful dust particles, called particulate matter (PM10), the fine suspended particulates less than 10 microns in diameter that are capable of penetrating deep into the respiratory tract and causing significant health damage, in the province was measured at 100 microgrammes per cubic metre, Mr Udomsak said.
Unless forest fires were brought under control, the safety level of the dust particles would exceed the acceptable level standard of 120 soon, he warned.
He urged local farmers to stop burning their fields and help authorities keep a close watch on forest fires.
Several provinces in the Northeast and the North have suffered drought as water levels in many reservoirs remained low.
In Buri Ram, more that 200 residents in two drought-affected villages in Khu Muang district have been forced to buy water for their own consumption at 250 baht per two cubic metres for over a month as water sources run low.