Bangkok has been suffering from severe air pollution for weeks. Schools have been closed, playgrounds are deserted and surgical masks are sold out. The Thai government has sent up drones to spray water in an attempt to lower the concentration of fine particles. PhD candidate Chanoknun Wannasin thinks improving public transport would have more impact.
‘I am specialized in environmental science. It is very frustrating for me to see this happen in my home country. I went to back to Bangkok this Christmas, and the situation there was quite bad. In the six years I lived there before I came to the Netherlands, I never saw such a severe situation. Almost everyone wore masks on the street; I really felt the tension. I had to fly to another city near Bangkok and when I looked out of the plane window, it was like a scene in horror movie: nothing but yellowish-black smog. When I came back to the Netherlands, I really felt the difference in the air I breathe.
I think there are three causes. Firstly, Bangkok has some of the busiest traffic in the world. The public transport vehicles are very old; if you drive behind a bus in Bangkok, you can see black smoke coming out. Secondly, climate change has quite some influence on us. It was reported this year that the air was very still over Bangkok. I could barely feel any breeze in the city, and it was very dry. There was no flow in the air which resulted in a heavy sedimentation of dusty substances. Thirdly, nearby Bangkok, there are a lot of mining areas which produce a lot of dust.
Unfortunately, the government has not yet taken any real action. I think the artificial rainfall is a waste of money, as it only helps temporarily. I understand solving this pollution takes time, but the government can at least improve public transportation. I heard that the government has appealed to scholars in various universities to come up with solutions.
This sounds like a good start to me.’