Thailand’s National Environment Board (NEB) has decided to tighten up measures to curb the worsening PM2.5 problem in 17 northern provinces, which is threatening public health and is being blamed on forest fires and the burning of farm waste.
There will be a complete ban on burning in open spaces, strict enforcement of the law against violators who light fires in forests or burn farm waste and cooperation sought from millers to stop buying burnt sugarcane from farmers.
At a meeting on Wednesday, the NEB has also instructed the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to mobilise all its resources, including aircraft, to control forest fires.
For Bangkok, the Transport Ministry, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and the Royal Thai Police have been instructed by the NEB jointly to consider limiting the number of trucks entering the city or restricting their operating hours.
The Royal Rain-making and Agricultural Aviation Department has also been told to increase cloud seeding operations, while the Public Health and Interior ministries have been instructed to distribute face masks to people in the 17 northern provinces, to provide medical services to people affected by PM2.5 and to organise mobile clinics to educate people about how to protect themselves against PM2.5.
To reduce the burning of farm waste, the Energy Ministry has been instructed to purchase more waste from farmers, to be turned into energy by community-based biomass power plants, while the Finance Ministry was told to consider cutting import taxes on farm machinery to encourage sugarcane farmers to use machinery in harvesting sugarcane instead of burning the canes to facilitate cutting.
According to the NEB, 56,439 hotspots have been recorded in 17 northern provinces since the beginning of this year, while the levels of PM2.5 between January 1st and March 3rd were measured at between 56 and 225 microns.