Experts Say Thailand Lacks Plan To Deal With Haze Season

Environmental experts and academics claimed that Thailand is not ready to deal with the upcoming haze season.

Expressing concern about the situation, they said the government should strengthen its pollution control regulations to address the problem at its source in order to protect Thais’ health.

Thammasat University and Naresuan University hosted an online forum, where environmental expert Sonthi Kotchawat said authorities did not seem prepared enough to deal with this year’s haze even though the government does have a national mitigation plan to address the issue.

The haze usually coincides with the winter months in Bangkok and the Central Plains region. With colder and denser airs, pollutants do not disperse into the atmosphere, and fine particle matter (PM2.5) concentrates at dangerous levels.

In the north, the haze typically appears between March and May, when dry conditions exacerbate fires caused by agricultural clearing.

According to Mr. Sonthi, air pollution in Bangkok and other major cities may reach levels never seen in the last two years, as the 2021 winter’s start coincides with the country’s reopening to foreign tourists.

Thailand has implemented measures to mitigate air pollution in the past. However, they have been too weak, and each agency has worked separately, leading to a disorganized effort to combat smog, he added.

“I still see no improvement to deal with the upcoming haze season,” he stated.

Mr. Sonthi said the ministries, including Public Health, Industry, Natural Resources and Environment, and other state agencies, should be more proactive. Also, he called on the government to tighten pollution control regulations and develop an emergency action plan to ensure a timely response to smog.

The expert also urged the Pollution Control Department to lower the threshold for safe exposure to PM2.5 from 50 µg/m³ to 37.5 µg/m³.

More substantial measures are also needed to encourage farmers not to set their fields on fire to clean them after harvest, academics said.

Meanwhile, Pollution Control Department director-general Athapol Charoenshunsa stated that his department has already worked on a plan to deal with the upcoming haze season.

“We have evaluated the outcomes of previous years’ haze control efforts to improve the plan for this year’s haze season, so there will be many upgrades and improvements,” Mr. Athapol said. It has to be reviewed by the National Environmental Board before being passed to the cabinet for further consideration, he went on.

Some updates to the 2021 plan include public communication to disseminate more precise and accurate information, allowing people to protect themselves, prevent burns, and haze mitigation strategies for each province.