Greetings, denizens of Chiang Mai and all those with a vested interest in the breathability of the northern Thai air! It seems that the clarion call of concerned civic groups has finally pierced the veil of administrative inaction, prompting the Administrative Court to issue a directive to none other than Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and the illustrious National Environmental Board (NEB) to roll up their sleeves and tackle the scourge of ultra-fine dust pollution head-on, with a particular eye for the well-being of our northern compatriots.
Cast your minds back to the halcyon days of last April when audacious civil society groups, armed with legal writs and environmantal righteousness, took the bold step to sue the PM and the NEB. Their contention? These high-ranking defenders of Thai environmental sanctity were not living up to their lofty responsibilities to mitigate the exasperating haze that has blanketed the North’s skies with a tenacity akin to a reluctant monsoon.
The lawsuit turned to the powerful Section 9 of the Enhancement and Conservation of National Environmental Quality Act as its Excalibur. This mighty section empowers the prime minister to command agencies to spring into action when Mother Nature sends an S.O.S! The NEB was also nudged to breathe life into the national plan to abate the relentless ultra-fine dust pollution—a scheme that was set into motion by the government itself in the futuristic year of 2019.
Despite unveiling the disdainful play of delay by the prime minister and the supposed negligence of the NEB, the civil society groups faced a conundrum. For, as the haze had lifted its heavy veil from the northern skies since the merry month of May, the court, in its infinite wisdom, found itself unable to bind these high officials to the demands of the plaintiffs.
And so, as we ambled through the months with high levels of PM2.5 as unwelcome guests from December to the blossoms of April, the prognosticators of pollution portent a worsening haze ad infinitum. Yet, the court, with the solemnity of a judge at a pie contest, decreed that an action plan must be the ready steed of the PM and NEB, with a grand deadline of 90 days.
The saga continued as the dawn stretched its ruddy fingers across the Thai sky at 7 am yesterday, revealing a tableau of 45 provinces locked in the embrace of unsafe pollution levels. Yes, according to the hawk-eyed observers at the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (Gistda), the PM2.5 marauders were exceeding the safe threshold of 37.5 µg/m³, painting Bangkok and twenty-two other provinces a dangerous shade of red, whilst the remainder donned an unsettling orange hue.
Enter Suchatvee Suwansawat, venerable deputy leader of the Democrat Party, astride his metaphorical steed, calling upon the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) to stand sentinel and warn the unsuspecting populace whenever the haze thickens like plot in a soap opera. “Alert the parents, protect the children, and let the LED boards blaze with warnings,” he proclaimed. Further, he pushed for enforcement of laws and compliance at construction sites—linking solutions to the haze to earnest action from those wielding power.
There’s a shimmer of hope, however, as the air quality in Bangkok is scheduled to see an uptick come Jan 23-23, thanks to the merciful grace of better air circulation. And in the interim, while we wait for the winds of change, a coalition of forces—including the Pollution Control Department, Land Transport Department, Traffic Police Division, and the BMA—joined hands to set up checkpoints in 17 districts to scrutinize black smoke from vehicles, which, if you believe the whispers, is the culprit behind a staggering 60% of haze pollution, with vehicular traffic donning the proverbial black hat.
So, fellow breathers of air and readers of lines, stay tuned as we chronicle this valiant crusade against the nefarious PM2.5. Will the prime minister and the NEB answer the court’s clarion call? Will the BMA’s efforts clear the air, literally? Only time will tell. And until then, keep your masks close, your air purifiers closer, and your spirits high as we sail the murky skies of this ongoing environmental odyssey.