CHIANG RAI – Authorities in Chiang Rai are using fire trucks to spray the air in northern towns, but this has little or no impact on the vast clouds of smog that shroud valleys and plains throughout the North.
TTR reports that apart from the immediate health risks that include breathing difficulties, coughs, sore eyes and throat, the usually beautiful mountains and landscapes that are a hallmark of North Thailand’s tourism attractions are entirely hidden from view.
The sky is a heavy grey giving the impression that the area has suffered a volcanic eruption causing smoke and toxic smog, when in fact most of the smog has been caused by burning of rice fields to prepare for the next planting.
A local Expat of Phan Chiang Rai stated on his facebook page that the haze from burning was so bad he couldn’t see his driveway 20 feet from where he was standing.
He also mentioned that local farmers continue to burn their fields and are oblivious to the burning restrictions.
He said that driving on the main highway was extremely hazardous do to zero viability.
A local hotelier in downtown Chiang Rai was washing his eyes with water complaining bitterly that it was becoming almost impossible to explain matters to his customers.
“We think this year is different,” he told me as he splashed water on his bloodshot eyes. “It happens every year, it gets worse and the hope is that it will rain and clear the haze before Songkran. What if it doesn’t,” he asked.
Apicha Trasin, chairman of the Chiang Rai Tourism Association, warned that if this situation continues for any longer, it could harm people’s health and scare away tourists.
Saying the impact of the haze is caused by seasonal forest and farmland fires, has started to pinch the tourism business in the province as the number of tourists has fallen by more than 20 per cent compared with the same period last year.
He urged Chiang Rai farmers to stop prepare their fields for the new round of crops by burning off last year’s ground cover, or other open air burning activities. The authorities have been asked to enforce strict measures against violators.
The Northern Rain Making Operation Center has continued its cloud-seeding activities, even though humidity is still inadequate for rain-making.
Overall air quality in the North ranged from moderate to higher levels posing health risks. Despite the dropping level of dust particles, widespread forest fires in Thailand’s north and in neighboring Laos and Myanmar continue as major obstacles to tackling the haze problem.