The Thai city of Chiang Mai is under a thick smog as a result of dangerous pollution levels in northern Thailand, raising concerns about the impact on local health and tourism, a key sector of the economy. The air quality has become so poor that Thai authorities have asked residents to avoid outdoor activities.
On Monday April 10th, nearly 2,000 people in Chiang Mai brought a lawsuit in the Administrative Court against the prime minister, the National Environmental Board and the Securities and Exchange Commission for failing to tackle the severe pollution, as reported by the Bangkok Post. The class action file suit includes northern people’s networks, activists, academics from Chiang Mai University and local residents.
A day later, on April 11th, the level of fine particulate matter PM2.5, which can enter the bloodstream, was more than 30 times higher than the World Health Organization’s annual guideline, according to global air monitoring platform IQAir, which ranked Chiang Mai among the most polluted places in the world, above the usual hotspots such as Lahore and Delhi.
According to Thailand’s Ministry of Health, nearly two million people in the country have been hospitalized for respiratory illnesses related to air pollution so far this year.
Fine dust pollution has also significantly affected tourism in Chiang Mai. According to the Bangkok Post, the Thai Hotels Association northern chapter has warned that domestic tourists were canceling their Songkran New Year holiday reservations due to pollution levels.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has said that he was coordinating with Laos and Myanmar to reduce high-pollution spots in the border area to curb transboundary haze, as reported CNN.
Air pollution in Chiang Mai is mainly due to forest fires and seasonal agricultural burning. Satellite images released by Thailand’s Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency showed thousands of forest fire outbreaks last week, with the northern provinces of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son recording the most. Famous tourist destinations there almost “disappeared” amid thick smog, while many tourists had to quickly leave to escape the clouds of smoke.