EARTH Thailand

Greenpeace slams officials for failure to warn public about air pollution

The Nation 27 January 2018 | PRATCH RUJIVANAROM

THE AUTHORITIES have come under criticism for downplaying the real threat posed by the recent air pollution in Bangkok, and urged the installation of a timely and accurate air pollution warning system to protect the people’s health.

Thailand country director for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Tara Buakamsri, on Thursday said the Pollution Control Department (PCD) had failed to warn the public about the threat to their health from air pollution despite having real-time data on the pollution in Bangkok and other major cities – especially particulate matter with diameter of 2.5 microns or smaller (PM2.5).

“We need a proper air-quality warning system in order to protect the peoples’ well being and give them a chance to protect themselves from harmful air pollution. The recent PM2.5 surge in Bangkok shows the authorities had failed to warn and protect the people’s health,” Tara said.

He said Greenpeace had been campaigning to raise awareness of air pollution and PM2.5 for more than seven years, but Thai authorities had still not included PM2.5 in the national Air Quality Index (AQI) calculation as the nationwide installation of PM2.5 monitoring devices was not yet complete. 

He said that Thai AQI does not represent the real air quality and it deprives people the chance to get ready and prepare for poor air quality, which could cause many illnesses such as respiratory diseases and heart disease.

“One of the few good things that we saw from the recent surge in Bangkok is that more people have realised the danger of PM2.5. They have more awareness about air pollution. Previously, the public and also the authorities did not have proper awareness on the threat of air pollution and PM2.5,” Tara said.

However, he stated that the authorities had failed to appropriately react to the growing concern about the poor air quality in Bangkok. Instead of issuing a warning about the dangerously high PM2.5 level, and urging people to protect themselves from air pollution, they played down the severity of the issue.

“It was disappointing that even though the PCD had real-time pollution information in its hands and the threat to people’s health was imminent, it chose to inform the public that the air quality level was just orange and not red – the highest air quality warning level,” he said.

He also suggested that the authorities come out with a policy to promote the use of public transport and encourage people to use their private cars less, because traffic was a major source of air pollution in Bangkok and other big cities.

Meanwhile, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) Deputy Governor Suwanna Jungrungruang revealed that the BMA had initiated clean air zones with a pilot project in Pathumwan district to deter the air pollution problem, by growing more trees to purify the air and regularly cleaning the streets to reduce dust.

“We acknowledge that the traffic is the main source of air pollution, but the BMA is not directly responsible for regulating traffic. So, what we can do is encourage commuters to use more public transport and regularly check their car engine to reduce emission of pollutants,” Suwanna said.

“We are now undergoing major public transport system development in Bangkok. We assure that by 2029, Bangkok’s public transport system will be completed and interconnected, which can greatly reduce traffic in the streets and air pollution.”