Air Pollution Reaches Unhealthy Levels in Laos, Affecting Three Main Provinces

Air Pollution Reaches Unhealthy Levels in Laos, Affecting Three Main Provinces
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Laos is experiencing a rise in air pollution levels, reaching unhealthy levels in three main provinces, including Vientiane Capital, Luang Prabang Province, and Champasack Provinces.

Vientiane Capital’s air quality has measured an unhealthy level Air Quality Index (AQI) of 155-160 today, on 19 February, while Luang Prabang Province and Pakse district in Champasack Province both registered around 158-160, according to the IQ Air website.

The pollution rate began to worsen over the weekend between 17-18 February in these provinces. Luang Prabang recorded AQI levels of 163 and 154, Pakse at 155 and 158, and Vientiane Capital at 148 and 145 on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

Last October, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment reported that Laos typically experiences heightened air pollution during its dry season, spanning from November to April annually. This period sees an increase in practices such as waste burning, deforestation, and the burning of agricultural land, all of which are significant contributors to high air pollution levels.

In an attempt to reduce the smog, the ministry, alongside the World Health Organization (WHO), discussed solutions to be implemented, including building public awareness of the short- and long-term health risks, conducting climate change awareness workshops, and decentralizing fire. This aligned with the government’s goal to reduce the number of unregulated fires by 35 percent in 2025

However, there have been no concrete updates on the progress ever since the meeting was conducted.

Throughout March 2023, Vientiane Capital and Luang Prabang were also coping with the continuously rising air pollution, with the latter recording the AQI level at 500 as a result of forest fires, agricultural burning, and hunting practices.

The pollution madness, at that time, led to a huge demand for air purifiers in Vientiane Capital, with some electronic shops reporting that such machines in their places were all sold out.

Thailand, a close neighbor of Laos, has also been facing severe air pollution issues, with the AQI reaching an unhealthy 156. In certain areas, the AQI exceeded 163, as reported by The Associated Press News on 15 February. In a prompt response, the Thai government instructed city employees in Bangkok to work from home until the situation improves, given that Thailand is currently in its dry season, as well.