VIENTIANE, March 28 (Xinhua) -- Many parts of Laos are covered in a thick haze with PM 2.5 levels greatly exceeding safe levels, adversely affecting people's health and reducing visibility in some places.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment reported on Monday that the air quality index in the provinces of Luang Prabang, Oudomxay, Luang Namtha and Bokeo had reached an unhealthy level, with the PM 2.5 concentration exceeding 190 micrograms per cubic meter.
The PM 2.5 concentration in Luang Prabang province, some 220 km north of the Lao capital Vientiane, hit 413 micrograms per cubic meter, according to the report.
PM 2.5, the fine particulate matter that causes smog, is an air pollutant containing tiny particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers.
Lek Keovong, a 29-year-old man living in the province, said, "Running is my favorite sport because I can discover new places and meet people along the streets. But now I need to stop running for a while to protect myself from dangerous air pollution."
"I look at the sky every day and realize how unclean the air is. Some people get a headache and a burning nose after doing outdoor activities these days. It's very filthy," he said.
The current high level of PM 2.5 over Laos is caused by burning scrubland for hunting, clearing land for crop growing, and burning garbage and leaves, according to a notice issued on Thursday by the ministry.
Some people posted pictures on social media platforms showing a haze-shrouded city view and expressed concern over hazardous air pollution.
"Air pollution is a problem that affects humans, animals and crops in many places across the planet. People need to stop cutting down and burning forests," said one comment.
"I used to be able to have a clear view when I walk away from my computer to relax my eyes, but nowadays it is often obscured by smoke or haze," said another netizen.
With air pollution reaching severe and hazardous levels, the ministry issued a notice warning people not to burn any type of garbage, to reduce outdoor activities as much as possible, and wear a face mask outdoors.