Can Prayut reduce Bangkok air pollution as schools close due to toxic levels?

Prayut considering ways to reduce Bangkok air pollution

As air pollution in Bangkok is still at toxic levels, weeks after the problem began, Thai prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is considering more extreme measures in an attempt to stop it.

Can Gen. Prayut reduce Bangkok’s air pollution problems, though, or is Bangkok schools having to close today due to toxic levels of pollution something Thais will have to get used to?

What measures is Prayut considering?

One of the things Gen. Prayut announced on Wednesday he is considering is mandating factories close for several hours a day while Bangkok’s toxic pollution levels continue. Closings will start at one hour per day, but could increase if the toxic air pollution problem persists.

Yes, this will negatively impact the ability of factory owners to maintain production levels. It will also impact workers’ wages. With factory pollution part of the problem, however, something has to change.

At the moment, Prayut has announced he is considering requiring factories to close for several hours every day while the public health crisis continues. He may mandate they close when dust levels rise as well.

Read: Bangkok schools forced to cancel classes as air pollution worsens

Until the decision is made, police and soldiers are currently out checking emissions levels in factories and landfills all over the capital, so the government can find out which are most at fault. Those that are found to be emitting high levels of toxic smoke will be closed.

Requiring car pooling and banning single-person vehicles are also things Prayut is looking at while Bangkok air pollution is so high. Meanwhile, diesel powered trucks and buses are now required to have their engines checked and, if found to be emitting pollution above safe levels, they will be banned from being on the road.

Who is to blame for Bangkok’s toxic air pollution?

Toxic levels of pollution in Bangkok generally occur due to three things.

  1. Thais drive too much — The first reason, and the easiest to stop, is that too many Thais insist on driving even though Bangkok has an excellent public transportation system. This means they spend hours a day sitting in extensive traffic jams that occur in every area of the city. While their cars are idling, they keep the engine running. This pushes huge amounts of toxic fumes into the air. All Gen. Prayut would have to do is ban single-person cars from Bangkok’s roads during times of the year when air pollution is at its worst, unless the person driving them has a special permit. This step alone would reduce Bangkok’s air pollution substantially. It would also increase productivity, as Thais would spend less time stuck in traffic.
  2. Crop burning — The second cause of Bangkok’s toxic air pollution is what the government says is smoke from crops burning in neighboring countries. While this is certainly true, Thais themselves also burn both crops and garbage. Two things that could be banned permanently. After all, there are other ways to clear old crops from fields that are less dangerous for the environment. Garbage could also be taken away by garbage trucks, rather than allowing Bangkok residents to burn it without restriction.
  3. The weather — Unfavorable weather conditions is the third reason Bangkok is now struggling with toxic air pollution and, of course, there is little the Thai government can do about that. Except, of course, seeding the clouds in an attempt to cause it to rain. Thus, reducing the levels of dust in the air.

Most of this means average Thais are the primary people that can help Gen. Prayut reduce Bangkok’s toxic air pollution. They could drive less, and take public transportation more. They could turn off their engines while idling in traffic jams. They could stop burning crops and garbage, and make arrangements for garbage to be hauled away by a garbage company.

All of this would drastically reduce toxic emissions being released into the air.

Can Prayut fix Bangkok air pollution?

While Gen. Prayut’s ideas would help reduce Bangkok’s toxic air pollution drastically, the problem is the average Thai must follow any new government regulations in order for them to work.

As Thais do not have the best track record for either following regulations, or leaving their cars at home, it is looking likely Gen. Prayut could be fighting an uphill battle.

Read: What are current levels of air pollution in Bangkok? The Real Time Air Quality Index can show you