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Thai PM has “grave concerns”, orders army to be on standby over drought in north

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Thai PM has “grave concerns”, orders army to be on standby over drought in north | Thaiger

PHOTO: Thai army water trucks are on standby to help northern farmers

Acknowledging the severity of the potential crisis looking over northern and north-eastern provinces, PM Prayut Chan-o-cha is instructing the armed forces to provide help to areas affected by drought, a situation which may be made worse by the test run of the new Xayaburi dam on the Laos section of the Mekong River.

PM Prayut has expressed “grave concern” over the drought situation, according to an assistant defence spokesman.

Eight provinces located along the river in the two regions – Nakhon Phanom, Mukdahan, Ubon Ratchathani and Amnat Charoen, Chiang Rai, Loei, Nong Khai, Beung Kan – are likely to be the worst affected if the hydroelectric trial continues until the scheduled July 29. The trials started last Monday.

On Friday, the Office of National Water Resources took the unusual step of writing to the Lao government, asking it to suspend the tests, citing unforeseen side effects of the dam project on the Mekong.

The 1,260-megawatt Xayaburi dam, located south of Luang Prabang, Laos, is scheduled to begin producing electricity in three months, with the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand being the dam’s largest customer. The only legal political party in Laos is the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party.

Thai PM has

The controversial Xayaburi dam project in Laos has endured strong local protests during its construction – AsiaNews

The new leadership at the Thai Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry plans a series of measures to deal with the imminent drought situation. Among them is a reduction in the release volume of water from two key dams in the North, expected to save 10 million rai of rice paddies in the Central Region from going dry.

Other relief measures include sending army water trucks to drought-affected areas. The air force will also work with agriculture officials to make artificial rain near reservoirs which continue to suffer from low water levels.

Arthit Phanasun, heading up a Nong Khai environmental group says many areas in his province have seen no rain for over a month even though it should have been a soaking wet period.

“Rain is now a past memory,” according to the Bangkok Post.

He noted that Nong Khai’s Muang district, on the Thai side of the Mekong, now sees its riverbank extend almost to the middle of a section of the river, following the recent rapid decrease in its water level.

Farmers in Nakhon Ratchasima are also suffering. Their rice crops in paddy fields covering almost 200,000 rai in Phimai district are wilting and dying as the severe drought takes a toll.

Governor Wichian Chantharanothai yesterday reported that water sources in the district are running dry.

In Phuket, the three main dam catchments are all below 10% of their full levels, a surprise to local water board officials given that the southern wet season is now more than halfway over and the dams would be well on their way to filling up at this stage.

The Office of National Water Resources lists Phuket as the province in the country at second highest risk of running out of water in the next 12 months.

The Director of Phuket Provincial Irrigation Office, Somsawat Chaisinsorn, has admitted in a Facebook post “that there’s not enough water on this island”.

Thai PM has

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | The Nation | Asian Review | The Thaiger

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Report attributes 32,000 premature deaths in Thailand to air pollution

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Report attributes 32,000 premature deaths in Thailand to air pollution | Thaiger
Stock photo via Wikimedia Commons

According to the State of Global Air 2020 Report, around 32,000 premature deaths in Thailand, back in 2019, have been attributed to air pollution. The report cites the PM2.5 pollution particles as the main culprit as particles in that size range are the most likely to travel deeply into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs.

Exposure to these fine particles can cause short-term health effects, such as eye, nose, throat and lung irritation, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and shortness of breath. But the long-term effects of being exposed to the particles is much more sinister.

Long-term exposure to PM2.5 pollution particles can affect lung function and worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease. Scientific studies have linked increases in daily PM2.5 exposure with increased respiratory and cardiovascular hospital admissions, emergency department visits and deaths.

Studies also suggest that long-term exposure to fine particulate matter may be associated with increased rates of chronic bronchitis, reduced lung function and increased mortality from lung cancer and heart disease. People with breathing and heart problems, children and the elderly may be more sensitive to PM2.5 particles.

In Thailand, it’s burning season in the north as farmland and forests blaze with abundance (the annual burning season usually lasts from January to April, before the wet season kicks in). Despite increasing cautions against air pollution affecting short and long-term health of residents, the fires don’t show signs of stopping. The government has even issued a no burning ban, but enforcing the ban has proved to be fruitless as such provinces in northern Thailand consist of vast forest lands.

The government helicopter team can only do so much as they set out to locate hotspots and attempt to extinguish them by dropping buckets of water. But crop burning appears to be the cheapest and fastest way to help farmers clear their lands for a new growing season.

Recently, Thailand’s northern province of Chiang Mai has ranked the 3rd most polluted city in the world, according to AirVisual, which gives live updates of rankings. Today, Chiang Mai doesn’t appear in the list of the top 10 most air-polluted cities in the world, according to iqair.com

SOURCE: Sky News/Health.ny.gov

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TAT says Phuket beaches have been “revitalised” during the pandemic

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TAT says Phuket beaches have been “revitalised” during the pandemic | Thaiger
Stock photo via Flickr

Phuket’s beaches are perhaps one of the only silver linings from the Covid pandemic, with marine life visibly rebounding after a long break from tourism, at least that’s what the Tourism Authority of Thailand says. The tourism officials say the huge reduction in tourist traffic has contributed to the Andaman Sea and coastlines becoming clearer than it has been in a long time, with local reservoirs teeming with fresh water.

But tourism officials didn’t mention the recent sea urchin phenomenon where hundreds of the red spiky sea creatures washed up on Patong Beach. A marine life expert in Phuket says wastewater being dumped in the Andaman Sea led to an algae bloom near the shoreline. Sea urchins moved to feast on the algae, but ended up getting stranded on the beach due to the tides. He says the sea urchins need to be in the ocean because they filter the water and serve as “cleaner of the sea.”

The Tourism Authority of Thailand recently released a statement, hyping up the Phuket beaches and saying the beaches have been “revitalised,” just as the island province prepares to reopen in July to vaccinated visitors.

They say Kamala Beach is still a popular destination, with a family-friendly atmosphere that offers tranquility along with snorkelling and swimming. Surin and Bangtao beaches are quieter than usual but still remain an excellent choice for those tourists who wish to partake in the nightlife and clubbing scene, according to TAT.

Mai Khao, Nai Yang, Nai Thon, and Sai Kaeo beaches, in northern Phuket, are visibly rejuvenated areas to visit as well. The 4 beaches are part of Sirinat National Park, where Olive Ridley sea turtles and Leatherneck turtles have returned during the pandemic to lay eggs. The Olive Ridley turtles were seen laying eggs on Mai Khao Beach after 20 years of no activity. The Leatherneck turtles also returned to lay eggs after 10 years of being absent.

The process to compromise between tourism and nature, started a few years ago with the beaches only allowing 10% to be consumed by vendors, umbrellas, and beach chairs. The southern beaches of Kata, Nai Han, and Kata Noi have also benefitted from the 10% vendor zone rule, as all seem to be returning to their original, pristine conditions they displayed a decade ago.

SOURCE: TAT News| Phuket News

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“James Bond Island” to be assessed for stability after the collapse of similar rock formations

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“James Bond Island” to be assessed for stability after the collapse of similar rock formations | Thaiger
James Bond Island / Photo by Engin Akyurt for Unsplash

The iconic limestone karst tower and popular tourist site known as “James Bond Island” will be checked for stability following the collapse of similar rock formations.

The rock formation in Phang Nga Bay appeared in the 1974 James Bond film “The Man with the Golden Gun.” It’s now known as James Bond Island. It has become a major tourist destination in Thailand and is a stop on many tours.

Experts from Thailand’s Department of Mineral Resources will assess the karst tower for stability over the next couple months. Apparently, this is the first detailed assessment of structural viability of James Bond Island.

In October, a large chuck of a Krabi karst broke off and collapsed on top of coral reef at a popular dive site. Another rock formation in Mu Koh Phetra National Park in Satun province collapsed in February.

The department’s director general Montri Lueng-ingkasoot says rock formations in the South have eroded over the years by thunderstorms, making them vulnerable to breaking apart and collapsing.

SOURCE: Thai PBS

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