In the dawn of November 29, 2023, the city of Bangkok awoke to an unsettling reality. The air quality index had escalated to alarming levels, with 50 areas teetering in the orange zone, indicative of potential health hazards. The epicenter of this pollution surge was pinpointed to Nong Khaem district, along the Ma Charoen Road, Phetkasem 81, where the PM2.5 concentration hit an apex at 56.2 μg/m3.
Bangkok's Struggle with Air Pollution
This isn't the first time the Thai capital has grappled with such air quality issues. The city's struggle with pollution is a chronic condition, often worsening during specific weather conditions. The current surge in pollution levels is more than just a mere inconvenience; it's a potential health crisis in the making.
El Niño and Its Impact
The El Niño weather pattern, a recurring climate phenomenon characterized by abnormal warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific, is known to exacerbate such pollution events in Southeast Asia. Given its proximity to the equator, the region has always been susceptible to heightened pollution levels during hotter, drier months. This year, the weather pattern has prolonged and intensified the pollution, further compromising the air quality.
The Larger Picture
However, Bangkok is not alone in this plight. Other Southeast Asian cities, like Jakarta, have been grappling with similar issues. On August 31, 2023, Jakarta was ranked the most polluted city globally. The Meteorological, Climatological, and Geophysical Agency (BMKG) of Indonesia has predicted that the 2023 dry season will be the most severe since 2019, thereby increasing the risk of failed harvests and fires. These predictions, coupled with the delayed onset of the rainy season until November in over 60% of the country, only exacerbate the situation.
Amid these alarming circumstances, the Thai Meteorological Department (TMD) has issued warnings of heavy rainfall in 13 provinces, alerting residents to potential floods and flash floods. With temperatures set to rise by 1 to 2 degrees Celsius and morning fog expected, the concern for air quality persists.