The Lao government has instructed ministries to be on the alert and to devise plans and measures to address possible bushfires and unregulated garbage burning, given that such activities are a cause of air pollution.
Under the supervision of government leaders, Prime Minister’s Office head Phet Phomphiphak, signed a new administrative notice which instructs central and local authorities to instigate measures to control bushfires and the unregulated burning of garbage.
The notice was issued under a recommendation from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, and underscores the need to control burning in a bid to lower the level of microscopic particulate matter (PM2.5) in the air.
PM2.5 is a measure of the fine particles present in the atmosphere, which at this size pose a threat to people who inhale the air around them. Many cities in Asia – including Bangkok and Vientiane – are currently enshrouded in polluted air.
According to the notice, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry will be responsible for bushfire monitoring and prevention, especially at times when farmers are preparing to plant new crops. Besides, the forestry sector must have plans and measures in place to tackle bushfires when they occur.
The notice requires the Ministry of Public Works and Transport to work with capital and provincial authorities to enhance the monitoring of unregulated garbage burning to prevent the release of harmful substances into the air.
The ministry should also introduce measures to minimise the use of low quality fuel so that vehicles do not discharge noxious gases.
The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism has been instructed to do more to circulate information about the harmful effects of wildfires and unregulated garbage burning through multiple media channels.
This is aimed at raising public awareness and encouraging more participation in bushfire prevention.
The Ministry of Health is required to monitor the impact of bushfires and indiscriminate burning on people’s health and to advise the public on ways to protect themselves during times of air pollution.
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce should step up efforts to list and monitor factories that cause pollution. The ministry should also prevent factories from mixing their waste with ordinary garbage.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is advised to create a budget and source funding to purchase and deploy air quality monitoring equipment in at-risk areas. This ministry is also tasked to develop legislation and manuals on the reduction of air pollution and to punish offenders.
Vientiane and provincial authorities should support the government by keeping an eye out for wildfires and unregulated burning, and take action against those who defy the fire prevention order.
VIENTIANE TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK