Forest fires blanket Chiang Mai in haze

Forest fires blanket Chiang Mai in haze

Officials detect smoke from a forest fire during an aerial survey in Chiang Mai on Tuesday. (Photo supplied/Panumet Tanraksa)
Officials detect smoke from a forest fire during an aerial survey in Chiang Mai on Tuesday. (Photo supplied/Panumet Tanraksa)

CHIANG MAI: The haze in this northern province worsened on Tuesday as the provincial capital topped the list of the 10 most polluted cities in the world.

This was attributed to forest fires that have been raging for about two weeks.

According to the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (Gistda), 1,420 hotspots were detected on Monday, with 193 in Chiang Mai.

Satellite information showed that 490 were in forest conservation areas, 375 in forest reserve areas, 237 in agricultural areas, 186 in land reform areas and the rest in community areas.

Cambodia had 2,489 hotspots, followed by Myanmar (2,279), Laos (1,210) and Vietnam (365).

Forest fires in Chiang Mai have persisted, with blazes raging in Ob Luang National Park, Ob Tho, Mae Chaem, Ob Khan and Doi Suthep-Pui. The wind carried the dust and smoke to city areas, exacerbating the haze.

Kritsayam Khongsatree, director of the 16th Conservation Management Office, said resources had been mobilised to combat a forest fire in Ob Luang in Hot district.

He also warned of legal action against those involved in forest burning as five new hotspots were detected, and the fires had continued unabated in the province for over two weeks.

More than 220 officials were deployed Monday night to fight the fire at Doi Pha Dam in Ob Luang National Park. About 220 rai were damaged by the fire, which started on Feb 22, Mr Kritsayam said.

In an article on the forest fires, Chiang Mai deputy governor Tosapon Puanudom said most were manmade.

He said efforts to extinguish them were hindered by budgetary constraints and regulations. The operations to combat forest fires have been transferred to local administrative bodies, but a lack of funding and rain have made the efforts more challenging.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin on Tuesday urged the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry to set up a team to coordinate with Cambodia in mitigating cross-border haze.

He said the Foreign Affairs Ministry already informed the Cambodian government of hotspots in its country and dispatched a team to discuss setting up a joint team.

At 8am yesterday, seven northern provinces had extremely unsafe levels of PM2.5 pollutants ranging from 92.7 µg/m³ to 75.7 µg/m³.

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