You reap what you sow
As PM 2.5 air pollution eases up on Bangkok, people and sectors still need to take precautions and measures to coexist with it the next time it returns. Most practices are temporary such as wearing masks, spraying water and installing air purifiers. But what about the long-term goals which address the original causes?
The planned policy-level solutions will involve some financial, legal and regulatory challenges in order to be implemented. Changing the standard fuel, exercising integrated urban planning, replacing public transport with electric vehicles, promoting non-motorised transportation and even collecting environmental taxes, to name a few. In the long run, there is another unconventional and perhaps overlooked suggestion that could reduce the intensity of the haze: plant trees.
Here are a few perennial plants, or plants that live for a long time, that have the ability to absorb dust and polluted substances, especially in groves. They can also be found and grown in Thailand as well as yield delicious fruits and/or leaves.
- Aloe vera
According to NASA’s clean air study, Aloe vera plants can remove volatile organic compounds like VOCs and carbon dioxide from the air while circulating oxygen.
Guava plants effectively accumulate sulphur dioxide and fluoride in bio-monitoring studies, and they are sensible to ozone in semi-controlled experiments.
In The Home Orchard Handbook by Cem Akin and Leah Rottke, The Fruit Tree Planting foundation, a mature jackfruit tree can produce an abundance of oxygen, eliminate harmful ozone pollutants from the lower atmosphere that add up to the smog and isolate carbon dioxide from the air.
Mango trees are highly tolerant to air pollution. Their leaves act as air purifiers to take in carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and accumulate other toxic particles such as dust and smoke.
It may not be typical to farm and harvest olive trees in Thailand but they can still replace carbon dioxide with oxygen and decrease nitrogen dioxide, benzene and airborne pollutants such as dust.
Apart from producing oxygen through photosynthesis and sinking carbon dioxide, tamarind plants can help clear the ambient air by filtering nitrogen dioxide. They are durable in infertile soil and drought too.
All in all, there is no easy or quick way out of this prolonging problem which requires multiple cooperations across the nation and abroad. But contributing what we can to improve the air quality, no matter how trivial it may seem, is better than not doing anything at all. In this case, if planting trees is too time-consuming, one can start by reducing their own diesel engine usage especially the exhaust that emits smoke, stop burning activities in households and avoid using the photocopying machine.
Stay Safe in the PM2.5 Dust handbook and e-book by Chulalongkorn University. Visit www.chula.ac.th/en/news/26593/ to read online or download.