Incense coils through polluted Bangkok as calls for curbs ignored

Incense coils through polluted Bangkok as calls for curbs ignored

A woman wearing a mask prays with unlit incense ahead of the Lunar New Year at Erawan Shrine in Ban
A woman wearing a mask prays with unlit incense ahead of the Lunar New Year at Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, Thailand, January 28, 2019. Picture taken January 28, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

BANGKOK: Thais of Chinese descent largely ignored Bangkok's call for restraint in burning of incense and "spirit money" to mark Chinese New Year as the city fights choking pollution.

Most people celebrating the Year of the Pig, which began on Tuesday (Feb 5), shrugged off health concerns as they burnt offerings to ancestors at shrines, many wearing anti-pollution masks.

"It's impossible to completely stop burning incense," said Romnalin Wangteeranon, 61, from behind a mask. "It's a festival that we descendants cannot do without."

READ: ‘Out of hand’ haze over Bangkok a symptom of invisible killer pollution in city every day

Bangkok pollution
Bangkok has been covered in a thick haze over recent weeks.

Air quality in Bangkok has been hovering at unhealthy levels as the amount of hazardous dust particles known as PM 2.5 exceeded the safe level in several districts where face masks have sold out at most drug stores.

PM 2.5 is a mixture of liquid droplets and solid particles that can include dust, soot and smoke, one of the main measures of the Air Quality Index (AQI).

Tuesday's AQI was 110 in the afternoon, according to airvisual.com, which measures levels in cities worldwide, placing Bangkok among the world's most polluted cities.

Bangkok's index has improved from last week due to a change in wind direction. But measures taken by the government, including seeding rain clouds, regulating truck traffic and hosing down streets, have helped little.

A man lights incense while praying in a Chinese temple ahead of Lunar New Year in Chinatown in Bang
A man lights incense while praying in a Chinese temple ahead of Lunar New Year in Chinatown in Bangkok, Thailand February 4, 2019. Picture taken February 4, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Tourists pray with unlit incense ahead of the Lunar New Year at Erawan Shrine in Bangkok
Tourists pray with unlit incense ahead of the Lunar New Year at Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, Thailand January 28, 2019. Picture taken January 28, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

There was only slightly less incense burning this year compared to 2018, which was not enough to make a difference, said an official at the Poh Teck Tung Foundation, which runs the Tai Hong Kong Shrine in Bangkok's Chinatown.

"Since we could only ask for cooperation, not impose a ban, most people are still doing it," the official said.

Source: Reuters/nc

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