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Laos & Thailand Seek Solutions to Air Pollution

Source: Vientiane Times

Government officials from Lao-Thai border areas are seeking ways to tackle the problem of seasonal agricultural burning, which is currently causing extreme levels of air pollution.

Officials met in Chiang Mai province, Thailand, on Tuesday, including the Deputy Director of the Border Army Department, Colonel Daokai Leutlivanh, and his Thai counterpart.

The meeting was also attended by Lao officials from Xayaboury and Bokeo provinces, and officials from Cambodia and Myanmar, where air pollution is also a problem at this time of the year as farmers burn scrubland prior to planting crops.

Meeting participants acknowledged the problems caused by the widespread burning of bushland, which is common practice among farmers, but creates dangerous levels of airborne particulate matter and also causes forest fires.

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The resulting smog covers a wide area of Laos, with PM2.5 levels reaching unacceptable levels in some places.

The government has instructed the relevant ministries and localities to deal with the problem, such as issuing legislation to prevent and suppress the problem of forest fires.

Government officials have also been advised to circulate information about the problem so that members of the public are better informed about the causes and effects of air pollution and are encouraged to share in efforts to put a stop to the tradition of burning to clear vegetation from farmland.

Various departments have been ordered to monitor the situation and issue regular reports on air pollution to keep the public informed, as well as monitor heat accumulation points so that these can be pinpointed and the relevant parties instructed to respond.

It has also been recommended that patrols be set up to monitor for and prevent the spread of wildfires and to organize an immediate response if a fire appears to be out of control.

The prevailing climate at this time of the year, when the weather is hot and dry, creates conditions that easily lead to forest fires, which are difficult to extinguish and fill the air with fine particles of ash.

During the meeting, officials from Laos and Thailand shared opinions on the problem, considering ways to put a stop to burning and mitigating the effects.

The two countries pledged to cooperate in efforts to tackle air pollution, with officials from each nation promising to build understanding and public participation in tackling the problem.

In addition, Thai officials agreed to provide training on wildfire control for Lao officials.