CHIANG RAI – Representatives from five Greater Mekong Subregion countries including Thailand met in Chiang Rai’s Muang district yesterday to try and find a solution to the region’s annual haze pollution problem.
The Minister of Natural Resource and Environmental, General Surasak Kanjanarat, said he was confident northern Thailand this year would experience a 30 per cent drop in haze-causing fire hotspots due to anti-outdoor burning and forest fire measures.
During the sixth meeting on the agenda at Le Meridien Hotel Chiang Rai, participants from Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam were briefed on the progress in tackling the problem and associated measures implemented by Asean countries.
Representatives were told about the Singapore-based Asean Specialised Meteorology Centre’s report that revealed the number of hotspots in Asean, particularly in Mekong Subregion countries, decreased in 2016 compared to the previous year.
However, the centre warned that the drought season in March to April might cause a sharp increase in hotspot numbers and urged all Asean member countries to remain vigilant.
Representatives approved the Mekong Subregion’s goals and indicators to reduce the number of hotspots to under 50,000 a year by 2020 via an emphasis on cooperation between nations.
Thai representative presented the “Chiangrai 2017 Plan of Action for Tranboundry Haze Pollution Control in the Mekong Sud-Region”, which focuses on prioritisation of activities to achieve the goal of having less than 50,000 hotspots a year by 2020.
Under the action plan, information and technology will be used to create public awareness and boost public participation on the issue and hopefully reduce the risk from haze-triggered health and environment impacts.
Thailand said it would send mobile units to measure air-quality levels and provide human resource training in the field to Myanmar and Cambodia as requested.
Surasak said the number of hotspots in Chiang Rai last year had significantly reduced from the previous year due to cooperation between Thailand and Myanmar’s military in building firebreak zones and educating community leaders in border areas about the problem so they could pass on advice on good practices to villagers.
He said the campaign to ban outdoor burning was continuing this year.
He praised the Chiang Rai governor for strictly acting against outdoor-burning culprits during the current 60-day outdoor-burning ban period (February 17-April 17).
Under the ban, village headman or kamnan are held accountable for the occurrence of hotspots in their jurisdictions.