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Toxic Pollution Threatens Thailand

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Toxic Pollution Threatens Thailand

Emily Sherman, Editor

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Schools in Bangkok, Thailand were forced to close in early February in response to high concentrations of toxic smog throughout the city.  Bangkok was recently named one of the top ten most polluted cities in the world, raising continuously increasing concerns over extreme contemporary threats to the environment and public health.  In January of 2019, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha urged those living in the Thai capital, Bangkok, to stay indoors as the city’s air pollution reached dangerous levels.  The air quality index (AQI) reached 182 in Bangkok last month, a number that is dangerously high, with safe readings typically lower than 50. This striking AQI measurement exceeds that of Asia’s more famously polluted cities, including New Delhi, Beijing, and Jakarta.  In response to this development, Prime Minister Prayuth advised all individuals to stay inside and avoid outdoor activities that are “unnecessary,” and recommended the use of masks when venturing outside the home.

The thick layer of smog that lays on top of Bangkok.

Many experts have recognized a correlation between rampant environmental degradation and unregulated industrial manufacturing in nations eager to rise to the status of world powers (such as India and China).  With Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, it’s no wonder that Bangkok is susceptible to having some of the world’s most toxic air, which is caused mainly by construction, polluting factories, vehicle emissions, and farmland burning.  With a growing economy the pervasiveness of pollution is bound to grow as well, and in Bangkok, this ratio appears to be exponentially intensifying.

Schools in Bangkok had to close early due to dangerous smog levels.

Although government agencies have taken extreme measures to reduce pollution by regulating construction sites and inspecting the emissions of vehicles, damage already inflicted by the global economy will be difficult to reverse.  Doctors in Thailand have expressed serious concerns regarding major health crises that the smog above the city could impose. Such fears have prompted government attempts to alleviate pollution using chemicals released by planes to trigger rain and water cannons to clear dust from the air.  These methods have proved incredibly costly, cancelling out many of the economic benefits that accompany the expanding economies that cause devastating pollution. Professor Nitipatana Chierakul, a respiratory consultant at Siriraj Hospital, warned that many more people would become ill if pollution was not rapidly addressed.  When asked about Bangkok’s recent struggles with smog, Chierakul replied, “In my opinion it is a warning shot for a crisis in the next two to three years if we do not have an action plan in place.”

It is clear that industrialization of the developing world is creating increasingly unsafe environments as pollution levels continue to rise at an unsustainable rate. The only solution seems to be a technological and an intellectual revolution; an alternative route of economic growth that both preserves resources and limits carbon emissions.  Preliminary evidence has shown that developing countries will suffer most from the weather-related disasters and increased water stress caused by global warming.  Even 2°C warming above pre-industrial temperatures would result in the loss of 4-5% of African and South Asian GDPs. As the most frequent victims of rampant pollution, these developing countries are expected to bear 75-80% of impact costs.  The disastrous effects of pollution will only come back to haunt nations whose rapid economic development induced decreased industrial regulations. Therefore, it is crucial that developing countries build up their research on and development capacity for solar power, wind turbines, and carbon capture- vehicles that will aid in the global fight against prevalent climate change and allow previously neglected nations to increase their status on the world stage.

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Toxic Pollution Threatens Thailand