Haze Crisis in Chiang Rai Worsens as Burning Resumes
CHIANG RAI – Yesterday, the Pollution Control Department revealed that the PM10 level was highest in Chiang Rai town at 293 micrograms per cubic metre.
Mae Sai in Chiang Rai recorded 281 mcg per cubic metre and Mae Chaem in Chiang Mai 199 mcg per cubic metre. Air pollution graphs show that the haze has intensified in many provinces.
Amnart Chermlae, Natural Resources and Environment director at the Chiang Rai Provincial Office, said severe haze remains in the province because the 60-day ban on people burning their fields had ended. So, burning had resumed.
“We detected a sharp rise in hotspot numbers after the burning ban was lifted last Friday. The number of hotspots rose to more than 200 within one day, so the haze problem greatly intensified in Chiang Rai,” Amnart explained.
The law was strictly enforced during the 60 days from mid-February to mid-April. People found burning leftover litter from farms, or garbage in an open area, were fined up to Bt2,000 or faced up to a month in jail.
Amnart said people feared the strict law, so when the ban was finally lifted they resumed burning their fields again because it is the easiest way to prepare land for new crops. This led to many new hotspots during long Songkran break.
He also said that normally during this time of the year, there would be rain from summer storms to clear dust particles from the air, but this year Chiang Rai had received no rain at all during April.
However, government meteorologist Surangkana Chongsawat said that this year’s summer storm pattern was still normal. But these occurred in the east and southern parts of the North, while severe haze lingered in the Upper North.
“We have to understand the nature of a summer storm. Unlike normal downpours in the rainy season, which cover large areas, a summer storm causes rainfall in a small area with a combination of hail and strong gusty winds, so it may not relieve the haze situation,” Surangkana said.
With the haze season in the North very long and brutal, people in Mae Sai district have started an online campaign “PrayForMaesai” to urge authorities to seriously tackle the problem. The campaign was initiated by the Mae Sai Creative Group (‘Mae Sai Sangsan’).
The group said even though the authorities applied strict laws to prevent burning, they could not solve the problem and local people must endure this every year. But something had to be done to send a message to policy-makers to seriously counter the problem, the group said.
People participating in the campaign have begun posting pictures of themselves with facemasks on social networks, with the hashtag #PrayForMaesai.
Meanwhile, The Prime Minister has expressed his concerns over the haze situation in Northern provinces, urging agencies to take control of the situation and is set to visit the affected areas next week, according to a spokesman.
The Prime Minister is set to visit Chiang Mai Province to meet with the general public, and to oversee the mitigation operations in the affected areas on 27 April 2016. The province’s ban of burning activities has been lifted to allow farmers to burn forest areas in preparation for the upcoming cultivation season.
The spokesman said the Prime Minister has ordered governors of the affected provinces to closely communicate with the general public to create an understanding regarding the situation, as the enforcement of legal measures alone might be insufficient, while authorities are urged to take care of the public’s health during the situation.
The general public affected from the haze situation can call the 1784 hotline for assistance.
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