Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Toxic Air Forces Thai Officials to Close 400+ Bangkok Schools

Health + Wellness
Toxic Air Forces Thai Officials to Close 400+ Bangkok Schools
Students wear face masks as they are picked up early from school due to pollution in Bangkok, Thailand, Jan. 30. Anusak Laowilas / NurPhoto / Getty Images

Air pollution levels in Bangkok have gotten so bad that the city's governor, Police General Asawin Kwanmuang, ordered more than 400 schools to close through Friday.


"We decided to eliminate the problem by closing down the schools," Asawin said, as The Associated Press reported. "We're afraid that it can be dangerous for the children."

Asawin was told by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to order the closure of 437 schools Wednesday. While only public schools are impacted by the order, at least three private international schools have also opted to close, CNN reported.

The closures come as the Air Quality Index for Bangkok measured 175 on Wednesday evening. That's seven times more than the World Health Organization (WHO) safe level of 25. The poor air quality is caused by an uptick in dangerous particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5). These particles are especially dangerous because they are small enough to embed themselves in the lungs and other organs, and the Department of Pollution Control said they were at unsafe levels in 41 areas around the city. Officials will reassess the situation Sunday to determine if schools will reopen or remain closed.

Bangkok has been battling smog for weeks, Hannah Beech wrote for The New York Times. Causes include the burning of fields by farmers, low wind during the dry season, unchecked industrialization and a rampant car culture.

"In our society, a car is not just a car," Thailand country director for Greenpeace Southeast Asia Tara Buakamsri told The New York Times. "It's a representation of affluence and a symbol of ownership. It will be very hard to get people to give up their cars."

Wednesday's air quality reading made Bangkok the fifth most polluted city in the world, Reuters reported.

Temporary solutions, like seeding clouds and spraying water from cannons, have done little to alleviate the problem. Asawin has also made the city a "pollution control zone," meaning the government can take measures like diverting traffic or closing roads and issue prison sentences of up to three months to anyone who violates orders to reduce diesel exhaust, construction pollution or smoke from outdoor fires, The Associated Press reported.

But Bangkok residents felt that these efforts were short-term fixes that did not address the root of the problem.

"If we want a long-lasting solution, all sectors must be involved, not just government agencies; for example, the private sector involving construction. There are so many construction sites and I can see that preventive measures aren't enough," Bangkok doctor Aek Pongpairoj told The Associated Press.

The high pollution levels come as Bangkok prepares to celebrate the Lunar New Year next week, and residents have also been asked to limit fireworks and incense burning, Reuters reported.

By Michael Svoboda, Ph.D.

Despite a journey to this moment even more treacherous than expected, Americans now have a fresh opportunity to act, decisively, on climate change.

The authors of the many new books released in just the past few months (or scheduled to be published soon) seem to have anticipated this pivotal moment.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Marsh Creek in north-central California is the site of restoration project that will increase residents' access to their river. Amy Merrill

By Katy Neusteter

The Biden-Harris transition team identified COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity and climate change as its top priorities. Rivers are the through-line linking all of them. The fact is, healthy rivers can no longer be separated into the "nice-to-have" column of environmental progress. Rivers and streams provide more than 60 percent of our drinking water — and a clear path toward public health, a strong economy, a more just society and greater resilience to the impacts of the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A Brood X cicada in 2004. Pmjacoby / CC BY-SA 3.0

Fifteen states are in for an unusually noisy spring.

Read More Show Less
A creative depiction of bigfoot in a forest. Nisian Hughes / Stone / Getty Images

Deep in the woods, a hairy, ape-like man is said to be living a quiet and secluded life. While some deny the creature's existence, others spend their lives trying to prove it.

Read More Show Less
President of the European Investment Bank Werner Hoyer holds a press conference in Brussels, Belgium on Jan. 30, 2020. Dursun Aydemir / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

By Jon Queally

Noted author and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben was among the first to celebrate word that the president of the European Investment Bank on Wednesday openly declared, "To put it mildly, gas is over" — an admission that squares with what climate experts and economists have been saying for years if not decades.

Read More Show Less