Local residents of Pattaya have been chattering nonstop on social media platforms over the past day around thick clouds of air pollution and PM2.5 dust around the city, complaining about what is now an annual event.
As of 11:00 A.M., yesterday morning (and it is no better today) air quality readings from around the Pattaya Meteorological Station on Pratumnak Hill recorded extremely high levels of PM2.5 dust and air pollution.
Sutee Tubnonghee, Director of the Pattaya Environment Bureau, spoke with local media and said that the problem originated from outside of Pattaya, insinuating that it was not a problem that local officials had much control over. He stated that air radar readings showed no signs of sources of air pollution in the Pattaya area and that there was little to no traffic in the area like prior years that could cause exhaust fumes and other problems. Sutee also stated that burning activity in the local area was found to be minor compared to other parts of the country.
Sutee expected the air quality to continue to be poor for several days, driven by agricultural burning in other parts of the country, primarily sugar cane. The Pattaya News notes many top experts in the environmental field have stated this as the primary reason for the air pollution year after year but few solutions were found. Farming by burning fields on massive scales is common across SouthEast Asia but the increasing level of burning every year has seriously affected air quality across the country.
Technically, the burning of fields is illegal but rarely enforced. (To be fair, difficult to enforce in rural areas where many farmers play hide & seek with authorities, only burning at night under the cover of darkness and then blaming lightning or arson.) The Thai Department of Air Pollution stated that they have reinstituted a crackdown on the burning of fields across the country this week but the enforcement appears limited.
Meanwhile, many air pollution experts have stated for years that continued bans on burning don’t seem to work due to the aforementioned lack of enforcement and protection of farmers who are the breadwinners of their local communities. Instead, suggestions have been made that the government help provide sugar cane farmers with the money and resources to purchase suitable alternatives to burning as well as a crackdown on factories that accept the burnt products. However, these ideas, although widely accepted by many as a decent solution, seem to be slow to implement.
In Pattaya, city officials have suggested wearing a proper mask that can prevent PM 2.5 dust, having a proper air purifier for one’s home, and avoiding activities like outside exercise until the pollution passes.
Year after year, however, the pollution grows in the Bangkok and Eastern provinces as do complaints from many citizens asking what exactly the plan is to tackle the issue.