Wildfires in Northern Thailand and neighbouring countries are causing a dangerous choking smog that’s seriously effecting people health. Pollution Control officials have warned people with respiratory conditions to stay indoors.
Fires burning in Northern Thailand, Myanmar and Laos have caused unsafe smog in Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son provinces, Atthapol Charoenchansa, director-general of the Pollution Control Department, said on Thursday.
Air quality was especially serious in Chiang Rai, where particulate matter 2.5 micrometers and less in diameter (PM2.5) reached 300 microgrammes per cubic meter of air over the past 24 hours. The safe threshold in Thailand is set at 50 μg/m³.
The Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency has reported 5,183 hotspots in Laos, 5,115 in Myanmar, 1,554 in Cambodia, 1,415 in Vietnam and 1,278 in Thailand.
Chiang Mai province saw 264 hotspots ,including 85 in Chiang Dao district. PM2.5 measured 100 μg/m³ in Mae Chaem district of Chiang Mai.
Wildfires and agricultural burning
The wildfire in the parks and agricultural burning, in plantations and farms in the region and in neighbouring countries, has pushed air quality readings in Chiang Rai and other provinces in the region to hazardous levels, specifically near the areas of the fires.
Hundreds of officials and soldiers have been called in to fight blazes over the past week. Helicopters have dropped water to control one fire that’s been raging around the Doi Suthep area, north west of Chiang Mai city, in the Doi Suthep Pui National Park.
Local officials say the massive fire has now been “brought under control,” but the air pollution persists with more smog from plantation fires burning in the area and to the north in neighbouring Myanmar.
The Pollution Control Department, under the Environment Ministry, says the main cause of the northern haze is the large amount of burning on farmland and pointed out that the contract farming of maize is a huge concern in the north.
The harvesting of Hed Thob mushrooms is also another factor, as hunters torch the forest floor to make picking easier. While there is a local market for the mushrooms, the export market is large — an estimated 2,120 tonnes in 2019 — especially to China.