Sunday, February 26, 2017

Noxious haze in North Thailand

Chiang Rai: The haze situation in the North is unlikely to be as bad as those of the previous two years due to favourable weather that has seen a reduction in the number of hotspots. 

Natural Resources and Environment Gen Surasak Kanjanarat said the ministry expects 20% fewer hotspots in Chiang Rai this summer.

However, so far the number of hotspots has dropped by half, helped by the "pattern of neutral weather", which prevents the weather from being too dry and hazy. 

Also, closer inter-agency cooperation has prevented bush fires in the forests, he said, attending the 6th Meeting of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Trans-boundary Haze Pollution in the Mekong Sub-Region in Chiang Rai yesterday. 
According to the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC), the number of hotspots detected so far this year was the lowest since 2010 with the neutral conditions forecast to continue until the middle of this year.

However, the hotspot activities will remain, possibly leading to the occurrence of transboundary air pollution in Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar in March and April. 

"We are satisfied with the dramatic decrease in the number of hotspots compared with the same period last year. Better than that, the level of particles in the air is within the safety standard. 

"But we will not lower our guard," he said.

The number of hotspots in the North this month was less than 300, compared with 600 in the same period last year, according to the ministry.

He added that staff of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation and the Department of Royal Forest are working to dissuade local communities from resorting to slash-and-burn practices. 
The agencies also removed a load of scrap wood from the forests, which fuels bush fires. 
Regarding the regional cooperation on preventing haze pollution, Gen Surasak said countries in the Sub-Mekong Region have agreed to control forest hotspots by raising public awareness regarding forest fire prevention and law enforcement. Thailand is ready to provide any assistance if needed. 
He also said some positives emerged from the meeting on tighter border cooperation to limit haze pollution. 
The meeting yesterday produced the Chiang Rai 2017 Plan of Action for Transboundary Haze Pollution Control in the Mekong Sub-Region, which targets keeping the hotspots under control. 
The plan seeks to limit the number of hotspots to under 50,000 region-wide by 2020. It will also focus on information sharing and technology assistance to achieve the target. 

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