Polluted Bangkok's Year of the Pig curbs on incense go up in smoke

PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK - Thais of Chinese descent largely ignored Bangkok's call for restraint in burning of incense and "spirit money" to mark the 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."

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.

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 co-operation, not impose a ban, most people are still doing it," the official said.

Chinese communities around the world welcome Year of the Pig

  • Men perform a dragon dance called Liong ahead of the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year during the Grebeg Suro ceremony in Solo, Central Java province, Indonesia.
  • Visitors walk through a tunnel decorated with lanterns at a light show to celebrate the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year, in Xian, Shaanxi, China.
  • A Chinese lion dances on glass skywalk to mark the Chinese New Year in Bangkok, Thailand.
  • Women wearing traditional Chinese costumes prepare to take a photo at a park ahead of the upcoming Lunar New Year in Beijing.
  • Tokyo Tower is illuminated in red to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year in Tokyo, Japan.
  • Women light candles while praying in a Chinese temple during the celebration of the Lunar New Year in Chinatown in Bangkok, Thailand.
  • Children touch piglets during a ceremony as part of celebrations ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year of the Pig at a mall in Chinatown district of Manila.
  • Larry, the 10 Downing Street cat, walks past Lunar New Year decorations on the door of number 10, in central London.
  • Children wearing costumes wait to perform during an event to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year, in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, China.
  • People watch as divers perfom underwater lion dance ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year at Seaworld Marine Park in Jakarta, Indonesia.

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