Welcome to the bustling metropolis of Bangkok, where an eclectic fusion of culture, cuisine, and commerce thrives beneath a sky recently shrouded by an unwelcome visitor: a dense veil of fine-dust pollution. The city’s skyline — often a breathtaking vista of gleaming spires and vibrant lights — has found itself beneath a gray haze after a substantial rise in PM2.5 levels last week, leaving locals and visitors alike yearning for a breath of fresh air.
In a decisive act of leadership, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has called upon the high-flying defenders of the skies, the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF), to deploy a veritable arsenal of technological wizardry and tactical nous. The mission? To battle the microscopic airborne assailants that have the city in their grip. This directive came straight from the air force chief, ACM Phanpakdee Pattanakul, who on Tuesday laid out a plan befitting of any sci-fi epic.
The Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (Gistda), an organization whose very name whispers of satellite dishes and futuristic forecasting, has pinpointed Samut Songkhram and Samut Sakhon as ground zero in the fight against PM2.5. With dust levels clocking in at an eye-watering 90.3 µg/m³ and 75.8 µg/m³ respectively, it’s clear that these provinces have taken the brunt of the pollution prowler. They stand alone in the “red” alert zone, where the air bites back with every inhalation.
But don’t be fooled into thinking this is a local skirmish. The haze holds sway over no fewer than 18 provinces, with Ratchaburi’s rustic charm now veiled by an “orange” alert level reading a hefty 67.6 µg/m³ on the dust-o-meter. Meanwhile, in the capital, the district of Nong Khaem leads the dubious leaderboard with its own PM2.5 score of 58.6 µg/m³. Others follow in a domino effect of pollution peaks, from Don Muang’s 56.2 µg/m³ to Bang Bon’s breath-stealing 48.7 µg/m³.
Heed the call of duty, RTAF cries, as it rolls up its metaphorical sleeves. The air force isn’t just sending up prayers for clear skies; they’re deploying water-dumping aircraft in a deluge of defiance against the haze, while exercising strategic collaborations with various agencies and the Second Army Region to keep forest fires — the mischievous match-starters of pollution — at bay.
From their hangars, an old-timer with wings — the Basler BT-67, an aircraft more storied than new — is poised to become a phoenix, rising to do noble fire prevention work and water drops from its lofty perch. ACM Phanpakdee assures that while this bird may boast many years in her logbook, the safety of her pilots is a beacon that guides every flight plan.
New gear is on the horizon, with four water containers set to join the aquatic armaments of these flying fortresses, while a weather radar system — a crystal ball for our modern age — promises precision in pre-empting and pinpointing the next blaze within the kingdom’s mountainous realms.
As if drawn from a novel of high-flying heroism, the RTAF readies for El Nino’s return, crafting special operations that would make any general proud. The goal? To defend the general population from the capricious whims of this climatic conundrum.
Not to be outdone, the deputy governor of Chiang Mai, Todsaphol Phuan-U-Dom, stands vigil over the flame. He watches over firebreak construction in the tinderbox that is Op Luang National Park — a bastion of natural beauty now dotted with sentinels prepared to keep the fires at bay.
From technicolour dreams of crystal-clear skylines to the harsh reality of hazy days, the land of smiles wages an unseen war against invisible foes, poised for a future where each breath is a symphony of purity.