Farmers defy governor's field fire ban

Farmers defy governor's field fire ban

Tak: Authorities concerned about haze caused by slash and burn farming were hunting villagers yesterday who defied a ban on outdoor burning by setting fire to a sugar cane field.

The fire in the field, covering more than 10 rai, was lit near Ban Mae Pa Ban San in Mae Sot district around 1am. Firefighters called the blaze fierce and said it took them more than an hour to put it out.

The incident appeared to be in violation of an order issued by the Tak governor as part of a "60 dangerous days campaign" prohibiting the lighting of fires from Feb 10 to Apr 1 to curb haze, which usually peaks at the beginning of the year during the dry season in the North.

Farmers usually use fire to clear farmland, but flames can spread to nearby forests, causing potentially dangerous situations and excessive pollution problems.

The incident yesterday prompted Tak governor Charoenrit Sanguansat to issue an immediate order for the villagers' arrest.

When identified and caught they are likely to face charges of causing a bushfire in addition to defying the outdoor burning ban.

They could be subject to serious penalties, Mr Charoenrit said. A jail term of between 2 and 15 years and/or a fine of up to 150,000 baht could be imposed.

Under the order kamnan and village heads have to take responsibility if outdoor burning occurs in their areas.

The draconian measure is aimed at cutting fire hot spots by at least half of what there were last year. Other northern provinces, including Phayao and Lampang, have also adopted the 60-dangerous-day policy.

Air quality in these provinces will be under close scrutiny by the National Council for Peace and Order, its deputy spokeswoman Col Sirichan Ngathong said after council meeting yesterday.

Haze is considered dangerous because it contains fine dust, known as particulate matter, or PM10. Because its size is only 10 micrometre in diameter, the pollutant can lodge in the lungs.

A similar problem of outdoor burning is also causing conflict in Phetchabun in the upper Central Plains after villagers complained about "black dust," which also resulted from burning sugar cane fields.

They took the issue up with Phetchabun Chamber of Commerce, hoping it can help resolve the issue.

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