Luang Prabang Chokes Under Smoky Air as Crop Burning Season Begins

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A thick haze surrounded due to seasonal burning in 2022. ( Photo: Jason Rolan).

The AQI (Air Quality Index) readings in Luang Prabang have reached an unhealthy level this week, resulting in poor air quality for residents.

According to an air monitor located just outside Luang Prabang, AQI levels in the province over the past ten days have been on an average double of those reported last year during the same period.

The station stated that the average AQI of 175 on Monday was significantly higher than the AQI of 96 recorded around the same time in 2022.

Over the last week, these readings have been at least 10 times higher than WHO’s annual air quality guideline value.

Seasonal agricultural burning is common during the dry season in Laos as farmers practice slash-and-burn agriculture, which involves setting fire to large areas of land once they harvest it, to clear the area for the next farming season.

The practice causes huge clouds of smoke to be released into the air, causing widespread regional air pollution. Since wind speed in the winter isn’t as fast as in other seasons, the haze lingers for much longer than it would at any other time of the year.

Northern Laos typically bears the brunt of this, with unhealthy air quality readings often being reported until the onset of the rainy season.

Two Israeli tourists had to be recently evacuated in Ngoy District, Luang Prabang Province as they encountered a fall and injured themselves after mistaking a nearby agriculture fire as a wildfire.