Illegal burning in more than 135 areas in the northern province Mae Hong Son has contributed to the rise of the air pollutant PM2.5 to levels considered to be harmful to human health. Authorities are also concerned that the poor air quality could also worsen the condition of Covid-19 patients in the area. Today, the air quality in Mae Hong Son reached what IQ Air considers “Very Unhealthy” levels.
Some fires in the north of Thailand are from crop burning where farmers intentionally set fire to fields after harvesting to quickly clear the land and fertilise the soil. The debate on the illegality of crop burning has been a longstanding issue between farmers and the Thai government.
Thai media reports that some officials suspect that some of the fires were caused by illegal gangs smuggling teak wood and burning the stumps to destroy the evidence. The Mueang district chief officer, Pongpeera Choochuen, says those who start the fires in the forest will be arrested and face criminal charges.
A satellite also detected 1,000 hot spots in the province’s preserved forests which are at risk of wildfire. Pongpeera is urging residents in the Mueang district to help monitor the forest. By communities, he says residents should set firebreaks, which are typically strips of bare soil to prevent a fire from spreading. He also asked residents to keep a lookout at who is going in and out of the forest.
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