As 2016 gave way to 2017, residents of Beijing, Tianjin, and many other northern Chinese cities suffered through the longest stretch of stifling air pollution ever recorded in the country. They choked through eight continuous days of thick, light-blocking haze, starting Dec. 30, 2016. This stretch of bad air began only a week after people in 70 northern Chinese cities were enveloped by similar days of haze composed of high concentrations of particles less than 2.5 μm in diameter (PM2.5).
A smog outbreak in Southeast Asia last year may have caused over 100,000 premature deaths, according to a new study released Monday that triggered calls for action to tackle the “killer haze”.
Researchers from Harvard and Columbia universities in the US estimated there were more than 90,000 early deaths in Indonesia in areas closest to haze-belching fires, and several thousand more in neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia.
The new estimate, reached using a complex analytical model, is far higher than the previous official death toll given by authorities of just 19 deaths in Indonesia.
It was a big surprise in the public, and the water shortages continued well beyond May even when the dry season ended. On July 12, the water shortages in the Central Region were so severe that there was not enough water for tap-water production, thus many areas in Pathum Thani, Lop Buri and Saraburi were without tap water.
ASEAN countries have agreed to draw up a plan to eliminate haze in the region by 2020.
A top official at the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry disclosed the results yesterday of a recent meeting in Hanoi that led to the 11th Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution. Asean countries have agreed to work in both bilateral and multilateral forums to reduce the haze problem as much as possible over the next five years.
Songkhla governor Songpol Sawasditham Monday called an urgent meeting of agencies to combat the Indonesian forest fire smog in the southern province, which reportedly saw tiny dust particles rising to 173 micrograms per cubic metre - well above safety levels.
While many southern provinces' air quality readings were within the maximum safety standard of 120 micrograms, local authorities were on alert and monitoring the situation closely.