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Deadly air pollution problem hanging over our heads

Deadly air pollution problem hanging over our heads

Particulate matter well over world safe limits

Jiraphat Warasin

Chiang Mai’s air quality has been steadily deteriorating over the past ten years. This is, in part, seen in every city that intends to increase its economic growth, without considering the environmental impact.

Black smoke and emissions from vehicles.

What are the sources of particulate matter pollution in Chiang Mai? One obvious answer lies in the prevalence of burning in the city, be that cremations, or just burning off garbage, forest fires or vehicular emissions. Add to that dusts raised during building and excavations.

Chiang Mai City’s problems are exacerbated by the fact that the city is located in a natural bowl that results in the same air being re-circulated, picking up more particulates every time.

Sign in front of Yupparaj School informs the public about air pollution levels.

The Pollution Control Department revealed that in front of Yupparaj School on March 11, they recorded 250 micrograms of matter under 10 micron (1 micron was equal to 1/1,000 of the diameter of a human hair) per cubic meter, while the world ‘acceptable’ level was not greater than 120 microgram per cubic meter in 24 hours. Chiang Mai city levels are double the ‘safe’ level set by US Environmental Protection Authority.

Burning garbage is subject to the Public Health Bill.

It does not end there. According to the research study by Assoc Prof Dr Utsanee Winichkhetkamnuan and Dr Karmen, the expert from Fulbright, USA, it was found that some places in the city such as at Waroros market and Thapae Road have dusts four times higher than that level.

This electric car belonging to Chiang Mai Municipality may help reduce air pollution caused by the vehicle emissions.

Air pollution can be called the ‘Silent killer’ and affects all Chiang Mai residents’ health without their realizing it. Prof Sumittra Thongprasert claims that the incidence of lung cancer in Chiang Mai is ranked second highest in the world. In addition, admissions for respiratory problems has almost doubled in the past eight years.

Dust caused by the road improvement and construction work in the city.

Chiang Mai residents should be made aware of the problem and should not continue to burn their garbage as it impacts on all Chiang Mai residents. However, the Public Health Bill of 1992 was passed to cover this. Any person who violates the bill can be imprisoned for up to six months or fined up to 10,000 baht or both and will be fined 5,000 baht each day if they continue polluting the environment.

Burning garbage causes air pollution.

Measures to counteract the problem includes ensuring factories are not releasing their waste into the atmosphere, and local administrative organizations should find other ways to dispose of garbage such as turning it into fertilizer.

If successive CEO Governors and all of us still have to inhale polluted air day after day, we will not live long enough to see Chiang Mai being turned into “The City of Life and Wealth”. Chiang Mai’s image as “the City of temperate climate season and beautiful women” will soon fade away in the cloud of pollution. When that time comes, it will be too late to revitalize the city we allowed to choke to death.