Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Phnom Penh air quality levels disputed



Phnom Penh air quality levels disputed

A man wears a mask as smoke is released from a factory chimney behind him in Phnom Penh. The capital’s air quality is now being measured by a new PM2.5 monitor.
A man wears a mask as smoke is released from a factory chimney behind him in Phnom Penh. The capital’s air quality is now being measured by a new PM2.5 monitor. Hong Menea

Phnom Penh air quality levels disputed

The first readings of the capital’s PM2.5 concentration, a major indicator of air quality, show that levels of the harmful particulates are “still low”, said Thiv Sophearith, chief of the Ministry of Environment’s Air Quality, Noise and Vibration Office, though an environmental specialist yesterday challenged how representative the readings were.

In April Cambodia received its first air quality monitor, which detects ultra-fine airborne particles that contribute to dangerous forms of air pollution.

According to data provided by the Ministry of Environment, the daily average concentration in April was 19.8 micrograms per cubic metre of air, and 12.9 micrograms per cubic metre in May. The World Health Organization’s guidelines recommend a level of 25 micrograms per cubic metre or less.

The ministry’s readings showed particulate levels exceeded that benchmark on just one day in April, when the mean was 25.8 micrograms per cubic metre.

While PM2.5 data are now available, national guidelines setting goals are not yet in place, Sophearith said.

“We don’t have the national standards for PM2.5 yet. However, we can see by using standards for our neighbouring countries that our results are still low,” he said.

The figures recorded by the monitor, installed at the top of the ministry’s building located near the river, likely underestimated pollution levels, said Chhinh Nyda, a lecturer and researcher in environmental studies at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

“There is a lot of open space near the river so the air will generally be quite good,” he said, adding that the location near parks and greenery may have contributed to the low readings.

While Sophearith defended the monitor’s location – saying that the ministry is located near construction sites and would “get both clean air and polluted air” – Nyda explained that air particles from these sources “will still be carried away by the wind from the river”. More representative, he said, would be readings in built-up areas where air is stagnant.

According to Sophearith, levels of toxic gases, including carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide – have been consistently below the maximum levels laid out in a 2000 air pollution control sub-decree.

However, he conceded that PM10 – particles most commonly associated with construction activities and road dust – are important air quality indicators yet to be monitored in the country.

“Because Phnom Penh is a developing city, we have a lot of infrastructure development and construction,” he said. “However, I think it’s temporary pollution. After construction, the pollution will be over.”

Nonetheless, he said, more should be done to reduce vehicle emissions.

“These two years the number of vehicles has increased dramatically. We have to find a solution to reduce pollution from transportation.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Municipal hall releases map detailing colour coded Covid risks by commune

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng released an official map detailing the red, yellow and dark yellow zones within the city under the new lockdown orders for Phnom Penh announced on April 26. The designation of red, dark yellow and yellow corresponds to areas with high,

  • Inter-provincial travel ban lifted; Phnom Penh and Takmao not exempted

    The government on April 25 decided to lift the inter-provincial travel ban and the closure of tourist attractions across the country, effectively immediately. The travel ban and closures of all resorts were imposed on April 6 and 17 respectively in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19,

  • Gov't mulls extension of Phnom Penh, Takmao lockdown

    The Inter-ministerial National Commission for the Control and Enforcement of Lockdown held a video conference meeting on April 25 to review a draft document on the extension of lockdown in Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal province’s Takmao town. The meeting was chaired by Minister of

  • Phnom Penh, Takmao lockdown extended for another week

    The government late on April 26 announced an extension of lockdown in Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province for another seven days – or longer if residents do not comply with Covid-19 preventive measures and the community outbreak does not subside – until May 5. According

  • Gov’t issues guidelines as lockdown nears end

    The government has issued a five-page set of instructions to be enforced when the three-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province ends on May 6. According to an announcement signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 4, the instructions cover a

  • Tottenham Hotspur to wear ISF Cambodia logo on jerseys in match against Sheffield United

    Last year, the Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) – an NGO providing education to underprivileged children in Cambodia – made global headlines with its “socially distanced” football initiative. This year, a world-class football club – Tottenham Hotspur FC – will wear special edition jerseys to show their support for ISF