CHIANG RAI – Natural Resources and Environment Minister Surasak Karnjanarat said yesterday that Thailand is working with Laos and Myanmar to address the problem of cross-border haze pollution caused by the illegal burning of forests and fields.
Minister Surasak Karnjanarat made the remarks at a meeting on measures to prevent and solve the problem of forest fires and haze caused by wildfires and field burning in the North.
Both Myanmar and Laos are also plagued by brush and field fires and Thailand needs tighter border cooperation from them to curb the trans-boundary air pollution that affects the three countries, he said.
A bicycle campaign will be launched for cyclists to raise public awareness regarding forest fires and haze prevention and law enforcement, Gen Surasak said.
He said forest fires in the North of Thailand are mostly caused by people illegally burning forests, including farmers who burn forests to clear land for agriculture — known as slash and burn.
During the past year, almost 80 people were arrested for illegally starting fires in forests, Gen Surasak said.
As well as public awareness campaigns, strict legal enforcement is needed to ensure an end to the problem, he said.
He also said that the haze problem in Lampang is especially worrisome while the situation in other northern provinces such as Chiang Mai, Nan and Mae Hong Son, have improved.
People in Chiang Mai now do not need to wear face masks and flights at Chiang Mai airport do not face delays, Gen Surasak added.
He said the technologies of the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency are being used to predict and prevent forest fires.
Pollution Control Department director-general Sunee Piyapanpong said the department will keep a close watch on northern provinces under a forest fire prevention plan from February next year.
Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Nan, Phayao, Phrae and Mae Hong Son will be watched from Feb 20 to April 22; Lamphun and Lampang will be watched from Feb 5 to March 25;
By Apinya Wipatayotin
The Bangkok Post