Asia Minute: Bangkok’s Dirty Air Leads to School Closures

Jan 31, 2019

Bangkok, Thailand
Credit Kimmam at Norwegian Wikipedia / Wikimedia Commons

Some public schools on the mainland have closed in recent days because of severely cold weather. In Thailand’s capital, every public school in the city is closed for the rest of the week — for a very different reason.

The air pollution in Bangkok Wednesday night was seven times the level the World Health Organization considers safe for people. That’s according to the Air Quality Index — a measure of microscopic particles of dust smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter.

These are especially dangerous because they can be drawn deep into the lungs and stay there.

The city government closed more than 400 schools Wednesday — keeping them closed for the rest of the week. Authorities say that will also cut down on traffic — one of the reasons blamed for the toxic air.

Other culprits include pollution from factories, dust from construction, and the burning of crops in the countryside.

City officials have tried a number of approaches to improve the air – from seeding clouds to encourage rain to spraying roads with water.

Later today, the governor plans to fly about 50 drones in the area to spray water mixed with molasses – the theory is that it will catch particles in the air.

So far, nothing has been effective.

While forecasters say conditions may improve slightly by early next week, Tuesday brings another concern.

It’s lunar New Year, and authorities are asking people to restrain some traditions — from lighting fireworks to burning incense.