Cambodia registers most hotspots amid surge in Southeast AsiaLegacy

A flurry of nearly 6,000 hotspots was detected across several neighbouring countries on a recent Sunday, with Cambodia registering the most, at 4,056, as per the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (Gistda).

The Suomi NPP satellite images pointed out a total of 5,823 hotspots spread out in countries neighbouring Thailand. After Cambodia, Myanmar had the second-highest number with 979, followed by 622 in Laos and 166 in Vietnam.

Within Thailand, the images identified 601 hotspots, with 169 located in forest areas. Kanchanaburi province held the majority with 110 visible hotspots.

The Centre for Air Pollution Mitigation, part of the Pollution Control Department, reported on the same Sunday at 7am that PM2.5 levels had gone beyond the safe limit of 37.5 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m³) nationwide, barring some southern parts.

Gistda’s dust-checking application, Check Foon, mentioned that 30 provinces had orange-coded dust levels by 8am on Sunday, signifying potential danger, particularly to those with compromised health, reported Bangkok Post.

In Bangkok, the city’s Air Quality Information Centre reported dust levels of 41.9 µg/m³, with readings fluctuating between 31.7 and 59.8 µg/m³ from 5am–7am on Sunday.

The situation is predicted to deteriorate between February 12–18, with at least 17 districts likely to issue alerts, according to the information centre.

Wijarn Simachaya, president of the Thailand Environment Institute, commented on the cross-border pollution mitigation efforts, stating that PM2.5 pollution has been a long-standing issue, predominantly in the north, affecting people’s health and tourism. He advocated for an integrated solution involving a ban on slash-and-burn farming and cooperation from neighbouring countries.

Wilavan Noipa, director of the Natural Resources Programme at the Thailand Environment Institute Foundation, echoed similar sentiments, stating that inter-ministerial cooperation would be beneficial in tackling cross-border smog.

Meanwhile, a fire was reported on Sunday across a large expanse of forest near the Buntad mountain range in Trat, on the Cambodian side. The fire has destroyed a minimum of one square kilometre of Thai forest and produced haze enveloping Tambon Chamrak of Muang district.

The Paramilitary Marine Force Company 535 reported that the fire was initiated at least two days earlier and quickly escalated on Sunday. Local authorities reached out to Cambodian agencies to express concerns about the fire, said Phira Eiamsunthorn, deputy governor of Trat.

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Author: Mitch Connor