This project is about the PM2.5 (Fine Particulate Matter) problem, a severe pollution problem in Thailand for a long time. We visualized the trend of PM2.5 concentration in some essential areas. Then, we explained the root causes of the PM2.5 problem and investigated the progress of problem-solving in two leading causes: road transportation (with urban planning) in Bangkok and agricultural burning nationwide. We gathered data from academic researches and open data from public sectors. We also interviewed stakeholders: authorities, farmers, scholars, etc. Unfortunately, we can translate only one of three features in this project due to the deadline.
The readers might know more about the root causes of the PM2.5 problem, which they may participate in prevention. They would also know about the PM2.5 situation near their living areas and hotspot situation in some Southeast Asia countries in these recent years. Moreover, they would learn the insights in problem-solving by government sectors, including the reasons, differences of opinions, and obstacles behind the scene, which made problem-solving in some areas have only a little progress.
This information would make the related public and private sectors know that there were journalists who keep an eye on this topic and help Thai people and environmental activists ask for more satisfactory progress from the government in the future. Some famous scholars and a voluntary media team who communicated this problem also shared our articles on their social media, which could widen the impact.
- We collected open data from many public sector sources, such as PM2.5 concentration (historical data), the number of passengers who used mass transportation systems, or the number of newly registered vehicles in Bangkok and surrounding provinces. We also gathered additional information about the topic from several academic research reports, official reports, or official documents. Some of these reports and documents were sent to us after we filed formal or informal requests to some government organizations, including the Pollution Control Department and Department of Land Transport.
- We also tried to analyze traffic index data we collected from a private companies’ website using Python. Still, we found incompleteness in some parts of the dataset, and then we also found the better dataset about driving speed during rush hours in Bangkok. So we decided not to use that traffic index data.
- In other datasets, we cleaned and manipulated them using MS Excel.
- We visualized the data in 2 ways: creating some static visualizations using Adobe Creative Suite and other static and dynamic visualizations using Flourish. The visualizations created using Flourish were embedded in our website.
- We also cross-checked the same data between a few sources, such as open data on the web page and the summary in an official report. We also clarified the meaning and definition of data with original data sources.
What was the hardest part of this project?
The hardest part of the project is investigating the progress of PM2.5 problem-solving. There are several sources of PM2.5 in Thailand, such as biomass burning, road transportation, and the industrial sector, which means there are a lot of government agencies involved in the same problem-solving process together. We have to talk with at least 11 government agencies to request the data, recheck the data correctness, or request interviews. We also interviewed several farmers and scholars who study economics and environmental sciences to find their stories and opinions. It is challenging to gather everything and write all these features with only one journalist.
Furthermore, PM2.5 has been a severe pollution problem in Thailand for a long time. Still, not many news reports tell us about the actual progress of problem-solving, especially when the problem solving was so complex. Moreover, it was still controversial about “who should be responsible as the root cause of the PM2.5 problem?”. So, it is vital to clarify the complexity of the problem and the obstacles behind the scene when we want to solve this problem. These are why this project was so important.
What can others learn from this project?
Other journalists will learn where they can find open data about Thailand environment, the complexity when investigating pollution in this country, the background knowledge about the PM2.5 problem in this country and the haze problem in Southeast Asia, with several related issues.