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Chiang Mai’s Air Apocalypse: The World’s Worst Pollution Levels Uncovered!

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Chiang Mai, a city in northern Thailand, once again experienced the world’s worst air pollution on Tuesday morning, with an air quality index (AQI) of 180, according to IQAir, an air-pollution monitoring website. Ongoing forest fires and agricultural burning were identified as the primary causes of the dangerously unhealthy air, officials reported.

Fire hotspots were predominantly found in hard-to-reach forests on steep slopes in Fang, Phrao, and Chiang Dao districts. Officials have been dispatched to these areas to address the situation, said Chatchawan Panya, deputy governor of the northern province. Mr. Panya provided this update after presiding over a meeting on combating wildfire smoke and PM2.5 pollution with representatives from district offices.

The deputy governor urged all agencies to increase their efforts to prevent illegal burning in forests and to remain vigilant. He also expressed gratitude to every agency and volunteer for their work in fighting wildfires this month. The Northern Meteorological Centre has forecast the possibility of rainfall on April 23 and 24, contingent upon the success of artificial cloud-seeding efforts, as a cold air mass moves in.

Additionally, an increasing number of hotspots are being detected in the northern region of Thailand, as reported by the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (Gistda). The agency revealed that Suomi NPP satellite images from Monday showed 1,274 hotspots across the country. Gistda’s data showed that Chiang Mai recorded the highest number of hotspots, with 272, followed by Chiang Rai, with 265, and Mae Hong Son, with 197.

Among Thailand’s neighboring countries, Myanmar had the most hotspots at 4,489, followed by Laos with 1,673, Vietnam with 319, Cambodia with 28, and Malaysia with 17. In response to burning activities, Gistda issued a warning to several Chiang Mai, Tak, Mae Hong Son, Lampang, Phetchabun, Nan, and Nakhon Sawan provinces, after analyzing more than 12 million rai of fire-prone forest areas between April 17 and 23.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has also encouraged relevant agencies to collaborate with their counterparts in neighboring countries to find solutions and enforce laws against violators. He further urged every agency to increase tree planting efforts across the nation.

Meanwhile, in southern Thailand, large areas of Betong, the southernmost district in the border province of Yala, were engulfed in thick haze on Monday, leading to complaints of eye irritation and respiratory issues. Local officials recommended that the public wear face masks, while visibility was reduced and motorists were advised to exercise extra caution while driving.

The Air Pollution and Health Impact Research Station at Prince of Songkla University reported that average PM2.5 levels in the South have ranged from 50 to 55µg/m3 since Saturday. According to the university’s Air Pollution Research Centre, the smog observed in the South resulted from prevailing winds carrying smoke from hotspots in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

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