bangkok air pollutionFeatured 

No Air No Air – Bangkok (Thailand) & Air Pollution

 What do you think when you hear Bangkok? *Enter 283 ‘Hangover’ references* and then? Streetfood? Temples? Lots of people? Smiles? Or if you’re looking at it from a different angle: Girls, gays, ladyboys, party, nightlife? All that has become synonymous with Bangkok, The City Of Angels. But if you ask me, or many of the other ‘expats’ (not a favorite word of mine) who made Bangkok their home, they might answer something differently. What many of us might say by now, especially these days, is “coughing, terrible air quality, fear of getting sick”.

For the past months I’ve been checking the air quality in Bangkok on a daily level (via http://aqicn.org/city/bangkok/) and not once has the air quality been ‘good’. The pollution level (especially of PM 2.5) usually hovers between ‘moderate’, ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ and ‘unhealthy’. The last few weeks has seen peek performance with the air quality being ‘unhealthy’ for days in a row.

air quality index
air quality index

Lots of news agencies write about it, when it happens, and even draw conclusions to famous Chinese coast examples. Hearing being compared with China probably sounds good for people in charge at first, but as soon as you realize that it’s because of increasing pollution, you should do something. Even China did something against it once they realized the immense impact on people, economy, and the world (the latter can be debated). What is Thailand doing though? With not only Bangkok suffering from that problem, but Chiang Mai being ravaged by pollution every year one would think the government would be hellbent on finding a solution.

> During the Chinese new year the government partially blamed new year’s celebration for increasing air pollution<<

Now that the Chinese New Year is over and we still suffer from decreasing air quality the hellbent approach to solving this problem seems to be….ignoring it. “wear a mask” was the go to advice for a bit until the topic, after a week or two, has been pushed out of the limelight.

Wearing a mask obviously helps in regards to protect oneself, at least a bit, from the dangerous PM 2.5 particles it is obviously not an ideal solution. We’re not fighting the root of the evil, we’re trying to live with the causes as good as we can (fyi many of the masks sold at 7-11 aren’t even helping since the small particles can still pass through, you need a ‘good’ mask from the pharmacy or off lazada / other shops). This has become a typical approach when it comes to (environmental) issues here in the land of smiles. Fighting the root of the evil would bring problems, be difficult, cause work, lead to loss of business, loss of face, loss of money – hence it seems easier to just fight the problems that are coming up and hoping that ‘shit won’t get too real’.

Once we even heard that if people of Thailand (Bangkok) would be ‘good people’ the weather would get better and hence everybody was asked to pray for change. Now I’m certainly not arguing religion here but I still think that one should help his/her own prayers by taking action. Isn’t that what most religions preach?

This is only one side of the coin that upsets me though. Yes, I’m disappointed that the government and private sector aren’t trying harder to ‘fix’ the problem but, let’s be honest, these days we’re already used to those sectors leaving us hanging. What upsets me even more is that the people of Bangkok don’t necessarily seem to care (or understand). When I talk with my ‘hiso’ (upper class) friends who live in nice condos around the city they say ‘yes, terrible air, so I only stay inside with air condition’. I obviously like my friends but such an attitude shows a clear lack of knowledge (air condition doesn’t save you from air pollution, generally speaking) and compassion for those who can’t afford life inside those hiso ‘prisons’.

If we, as the people living in polluted areas, aren’t sticking together and demand change but decide to just ‘live’ with it because we ‘can’t do anything’ about it, why should anyone bother to work towards change? It starts with the people first and if we don’t even manage to bend together over a thing, clean air, that we all need, then how can we expect to work together on even more controversial issues?

To finish with a quote by the famous North American contemporary storyteller and poet Jordin Sparks(feat. Chris Brown): “If I should die before I wake / Its ’cause you took my breath away / Losing you is like living in a world with no air, oh”. The air is about to be taken away, breathing becomes more difficult and sickness seems unavoidable. What are you going to do?

“Tell me how I’m supposed to breathe with no air?

Sascha Funk

Founder / Editor at My-Thai.org
Sascha is the publisher of my-thai.org and switched from an online marketing agency life in Europe to a teaching and education life in Thailand. He also writes about Teaching & Technology.

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