News agencies reported unhealthy pollution levels in Bangkok, Thailand, which forced city schools to close on Wednesday and for the rest of week, and the Public Health Ministry advising public against outdoor activities.
A thick layer of smog covers Lumpini Park in central Bangkok. A fleet of drones, trucks and small planes are spraying water to try to reduce dust around Bangkok while the governor Police Gen. Asawin Kwanmuang invited critics to brainstorm better ideas to improve the air quality in the Thai capital.
Five drones were used for dust reduction at Lan Khon Muang, in front of City Hall, on Thursday. The number would be increased and the operation widened, the governor said, “Each drone could carry 5-10 litres of water and could be flown over a two-square-kilometre area for 15-20 minutes on one charge. Drones will spray only clean water into the air, with the Bangkok Fire and Rescue department supervising the operation.’’
Elaborating the drone operation Police Gen. Asawin Kwanmuang said the drones would be flown from six places – Lan Khon Muang, Wat Phra Srimahathat, Kasetsart University, Chatuchak Park, Lumpini Park and Rama IX Bridge. They would operate for 90 minutes to 2 hours a day in each location.
Police Gen. Asawin has also declared the city a “pollution control zone,” allowing firmer measures such as road closings and limits on diesel exhaust, outdoor burning and construction activities.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha ordered inspections of factories to measure the pollution they are emitting. The measures proposed this week would focus on what are generally considered the main sources of Bangkok’s air pollution, particularly vehicle exhaust, especially from diesel engines. Open burning and emissions from factories and power plants also are major problems; along with dust from construction sites which are also probable sources of air pollution.
Some scientists have speculated that smoke and haze from Thailand’s less-developed eastern neighbour, Cambodia, also drifted into Bangkok, stirring up a bit of eco-nationalism, but the government Pollution Control Department said evidence did not support this theory. Parts of northern Thailand, however, do suffer an annual air pollution crisis due to fires from slash and burn agriculture and other causes in remote rural areas and in another neighbour, Myanmar.
Governor Asawin acknowledged that drones aren’t a long-term solution but said he thinks every bit of effort helps. Addressing a news conference, he said critics calling the drones a meaningless stunt would otherwise criticize him for doing nothing. Asawin invited private-sector experts and academics to share ideas to improve air quality.