Bangkok, the bustling capital city of Thailand, is renowned for its culture, delicious cuisine, and its snarling traffic jams. Beneath the surface of this metropolis lies a pressing issue that threatens the health and well-being of its residents and visitors alike - PM2.5 air pollution. These tiny particles are so small that they can easily penetrate the respiratory system and enter the bloodstream, leading to a wide range of health issues. Common sources of PM2.5 pollution include vehicle emissions, industrial activities, construction work, and the burning of fossil fuels. But amidst the haze of pollution, there shines a beacon of hope, a dedicated advocate for cleaner air and a healthier future - Dr. Kanongnij Sribuaiam, known as Ajarn Noi. Koktail explores the impacts of PM2.5 pollution, the efforts to combat it, and the importance of collective action in securing healthier futures for all.
As one of Koktails’s Future List 2023, Ajarn Noi stands tall as an influential figure in Thailand's ongoing battle for clean air regulations. With law degrees from Harvard in the USA, and the University of Nantes, France, she currently serves as an associate professor at Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Law. Ajarn Noi actively advocates and educates the public about their right to access clean air. Concerned about the worsening PM2.5 issue, she established the Thailand Clean Air Network, a coalition of professionals from various fields, including doctors economists lawyers scientists and social activists, to push for policy changes. She firmly believes that our present generation must not ignore its duty to safeguard the needs of future generations.
Recognising that significant change takes time, Ajarn Noi advocates a patient approach. She consistently seeks innovative initiatives to advance her environmental vision, collaborating with the media, civil society, and labour unions to apply appropriate pressure on policymakers and politicians, ensuring her message reaches those who need to hear it.
Prolonged exposure to high levels of PM2.5 can trigger or exacerbate respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It can also lead to cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and strokes. Moreover, pregnant women, children, and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to the health risks associated with breathing polluted air.
Emission Standards and Regulations: Implementing strict emission standards for vehicles and industries to reduce harmful pollutants released into the atmosphere.
Public Transportation Upgrades: Expanding and enhancing public transportation options to reduce the reliance on private vehicles and encourage the use of cleaner, more sustainable modes of travel.
Green Spaces and Urban Planning: Incorporating green spaces and parks into the urban landscape to act as natural filters and reduce the concentration of pollutants.
Alternative Energy Promotion: Encouraging the adoption of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
Awareness Campaigns: Raising public awareness about the health impacts of air pollution and promoting individual actions to minimise personal exposure, such as wearing masks and avoiding outdoor activities during peak pollution hours.
While these initiatives are essential steps in the right direction, Bangkok faces several challenges in its fight against PM2.5 pollution. The rapid pace of urbanisation and industrialisation, combined with a growing population, makes it difficult to maintain consistent progress. Additionally, regional factors, such as seasonal crop burning and weather patterns, can exacerbate pollution levels.
To overcome these challenges, collaboration between the government, private sector, civil society, and the public is crucial. Here are some ways all stakeholders can contribute to the cause:
Governmental Commitment: Governments should prioritise air quality improvement and allocate adequate resources for research, monitoring, and enforcement of regulations.
Corporate Responsibility: Industries should invest in cleaner technologies and sustainable practices to reduce emissions and contribute to a greener future.
Citizen Engagement: Individuals can play their part by adopting eco-friendly habits, using public transportation, and supporting policies that promote cleaner air.
International Cooperation: As air pollution knows no borders, regional cooperation and knowledge exchange can yield innovative solutions and shared progress.
Walking and breathing in Bangkok should be a pleasant experience that invigorates the spirit, not a health hazard. The battle against PM2.5 pollution requires a united front, with each stakeholder taking responsibility for their role in achieving cleaner air and healthier futures. In the pursuit of a healthier tomorrow, it is crucial to acknowledge the extraordinary efforts of individuals like Ajarn Noi as her tireless advocacy and leadership through the Thailand Clean Air Network has inspired countless others to join the cause. Ajarn Noi's dedication to securing a healthier future for all serves as an inspiring example of what collective action can achieve. As we breathe in the air of Bangkok, we must remember that the health of future generations rests on the actions we take today.