It’s official: Smoky haze is around for longer this year in Thailand

BANGKOK (The Nation/ANN) - The end of the burning ban - together with the drought situation – has resulted in a longer-than-usual Northern haze.

The end of the burning ban - together with the drought situation – has resulted in a longer-than-usual Northern haze.

In mid-April in many provinces, small particulate matter of up to 10 microns in diameter (PM10) remained at a very high level.

According to records from previous years, normally the haze problem would be relieved naturally after the Songkran Festival (April 13 to 15); but this year air pollution in many provinces remains higher than the accepted safe limit.

Yesterday, the Pollution Control Department revealed that the PM10 level was highest in Mueng Chiang Rai District at 293 micrograms per cubic metre.

Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district recorded 281 micrograms per cubic metre and Chiang Mai’s Mae Chaem District, 199 micrograms per cubic metre.

Air pollution graphs in many provinces showed that the haze had intensified.

Amnart Chermlae, Chiang Rai Provincial Office of Natural Resources and Environment director, said the severe haze situation remaining in the province was due to the termination of the 60-day burning ban. As a result, the burning had resumed.

“We detected the sharp rise in hotspot numbers after the burning ban was lifted last Friday. The number of hotspots rose to more than 200 within one day, so the haze problem was greatly intensified in Chiang Rai,” Amnart explained.

The strict law enforcement was applied during the 60-day ban from mid-February to mid-April. People found burning leftover litter from farms, and garbage in the open area, would be fined up to 2,000 baht ($56) or sentenced to one month’s imprisonment.

Amnart said because people feared the strict laws, when the ban was finally lifted they resumed burning their fields again because it was the easiest way to prepare land for new crops. This led to many new hotspots igniting during long Songkran Holidays,

He also revealed that normally during this time of the year, there would be rain from summer storms to clear dust particles from the air, but this year Chiang Rai had received no rain at all during April.

However, Meteorological Department meteorologist Surangkana Chongsawat revealed that this year’s summer storm pattern was still normal. But in Thailand’s North it occurred in the eastern and southern parts of the region, while the severe haze situation hit the northern part of the region.

“We have to understand the nature of a summer storm. Unlike normal downpours in the rainy season, which cover large areas, a summer storm causes rainfall in a small area with a combination of hail and strong gusty winds, so it may not relieve the haze situation,” Surangkana said.

As this haze season in the North was very long and brutal, the people in Mae Sai District started an online campaign “PrayForMaesai” to urge authorities to seriously tackle the haze situation.

The campaign was initiated by the Mae Sai Creative Group (Mae Sai Sangsan). The group said that even though the authorities applied strict laws to prevent burning, they could not solve the problem and local people must endure it every year. Something must be done to send the people’s message to the policy-makers to seriously tackle the problem, the group said.

People who participated in the campaign posted a picture of themselves with facemasks on social network, with the hashtag #PrayForMaesai.


No photos has been attached.