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Northen Thailand

2000 Strong Taskforce Created to “Raise Awareness” to the Harm Caused by Burning

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CHIANG RAI – The haze situation has deteriorated to a critical, health-affecting level in eight northern Thailand provinces, prompting Junta Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to visit Chiang Mai province on Tuesday.

Wicharn Simachaya, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, met with Chiang Mai Provincial Governor Supachai Iamsuwan and officials of relevant agencies to handle the haze and brush fire situation.

The haze is mostly being blamed on open-air burning activity, especially during the dry season. This year’s haze situation is more critical than in previous years.

According to NNT, a task force of more than 2,000 “administrative” and forestry officials, military and police officers has been set up to solve the haze situation throughout the northern province and raise awareness among the local villagers of possible harm caused by a brush fire and cooperation in fighting it.

Forested areas are yet to be allocated for occupational use whereas forestation without burning activity and strict legal enforcement will be carried out in the long run.

The provincial governor said the authorities were calling for the participation of members of the local community in coping with such situations and did not expect it to persist during the Songkran festival as rains, forecast to fall in many northern areas, will help contain it.

According to the Airvisual website, which ranks the air quality of the world’s tourist destinations, Chiang Mai has ranked at the top of the chart as the most air-polluted city though the situation has gradually improved.

Meanwhile, airborne particulate matter has dropped in Nan province but it currently remains at a high level in Huay Koan community of Chalerm Phrakiat district where PM 2.5 dust was reported at 192 micrograms per cubic meter, largely due to brush fires.

The latest instance, a brush fire which produced thick haze, was reported near the Huay Koan permanent border checkpoint. The authorities and local villagers managed, with difficulty due to strong winds and high terrain, to put out the fire which damaged 0.64 hectares of land.

Deputy government spokesman Lt. Gen. Veerachon Sukhonthapatiphak disclosed that the premier is scheduled to visit Chiang Mai and attend a meeting on the haze and dust situation in the northern region on Tuesday.

By Tewit Kemtong