CHIANGRAI TIMES – Residents breathed a sigh of relief, yesterday, as strong winds and rains swept aside a cloud of haze that covered this far north destination for weeks.
At one point the haze was declared a potential health hazard with the province’s governor warning citizens to stay indoors if possible.
In an obvious sigh of relief, Chiang Rai’s Pacific Asia Travel Association Chapter chairman, Justin Malcolm, issued a statement to the global travel industry saying the “skies are clear and we’re ready for business.”
However, the haze drove away substantial business for the provincial city that is celebrating its 750th founding anniversary this year.
“While the haze in Chiang Rai is now as good as gone, we’ve lost a lot of business in the last two weeks, and we need to send a message to travellers that all is clear,” he explained.
As head of the PATA chapter, Mr Malcolm also attended meetings with the governor to discuss the haze crisis and an action plan to address the issue in the long-term.
Tourism is emerging as a strong economic driver in the province that largely relied on agriculture in the past.
In response, the province reiterated to all departments and agencies especially in the agricultural sector there is a standing “no burn” order in place and law enforcement agencies must enforce it.
Traditionally, farmers burn off paddy fields after the rice harvest, while forests are burned to clear land for market gardening or farming. Whole stretches of bamboo are fired annually based on a traditional practice that is supposed to speed up regrowth and regeneration of plantations, while fertilizing the soil.
This year the smoke haze has been particularly intense throughout North Thailand.