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Thailand on fire – NASA satellite website tracks the country’s farm fires




Thailand is burning. The burning off of harvested crop plantations is lighting up the agricultural areas. The truth is starkly revealed in the live NASA satellite feeds which track the fires around the world.

Thailand on fire - NASA satellite website tracks the country's farm fires | News by Thaiger

CHART: Fires in the past 10 days around parts of Thailand – Firms.Modaps

Concentrations of the current fires can be seen in Central Thailand, north of Bangkok, parts of Isaan, north east of Bangkok, and around Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. Notably the concentration of fires in northern Cambodia and across the north-western border in Myanmar, is also causing plenty of problems as the foreign smoke drifts across the borders. No matter what Thai officials do to enforce the rice, sugar and corn plantation burn-offs, there is little they can do about the haze drifting across the borders.

Bangkok, so close to clusters of fires, is in for a bad air pollution day anytime the light winds of the start of the year blow from the north or the east. The lack of rain adds to the problem, the annual problem, that engulfs Thailand’s capital during days between December and April, with the worst month, statistically, being March.

The alternative method of preparing for the next harvest, mechanical removal of the refuse and waste after harvesting, is both unpopular in Thailand and economically unviable for the small farmers whose margins remain thin with the multi-national buyers of their produce pushing for lower and lower prices every year.

In Chiang Mai, from January to the end of March, the locals even call it the ‘burning season’. Coupled with the hot season, the farmers in northern Thailand burn their fields to prepare land for the next harvest and also to get rid of biowastes like corn that can’t be sold in the market. It’s officially illegal to do the burn offs but the lack of enforcement leaves the problem unresolved and the smog and haze remain as predictable as the annual wet season.

Chiang Mai also has a local geographic problem which exacerbates the bad smoke pollution. The city is in a valley, surrounded by hills, trapping in the smoke and helping block any breezes that could otherwise blow it away.

For today, Bangkok’s air pollution is better than the past two days but still registering as ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ with city readings mostly between 140 – 170. Parts of the city, mostly south-east and south west, were registering readings above 300 in the past few days.

Thailand on fire - NASA satellite website tracks the country's farm fires | News by Thaiger


Watch this video for some more information about Bangkok’s smog…


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  1. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Sunday, January 17, 2021 at 11:39 am

    Thais do not really care about other Thais; that is why if they want to build a fence at three o’clock in the morning hammering, they do.
    However this burning has been happening for many years. Why is it that only now they have such bad smog?
    This must be due to motor vehicles, and that is something the governments can do something about.

    • Avatar


      Sunday, January 17, 2021 at 12:12 pm

      Of course its not about motor vehicles. Then the problem would exist year long. Thats a local city issue.

      The cause is field and forrest burning. Simple as that. Huge areas are burned during a 4 month period. Together with the push to plant sugar cane and corn the last decade and more land being used the problem grows bigger and out of control because of absolutely zero enforcement, planning or even caring. We only got started, just wait a month and see the numbers sky high around the north (hey, way less vehicles there right?…).

      Then the ignorant officials start talking again and blaming everything except the elephant in the room. Then around start of rain season they say “we’ll fix it” and miraculously its over in a few weeks when heavy rain start falling down. Months of hazardous air breathing is the result of a gov that doesnt care about sustainability and certainly wont educate. How hard is it to run a national campaign on all media channels. Raise awareness. It helped with the silly masks everywhere (without helmets ofcourse… another blind spot!).

      We know the dangers. This gov chooses to ignore it year after year. Its also absolutely not inviting to go for outdoor activities. Slowly tourists around the world also get the measage.

      • Avatar

        Toby Andrews

        Sunday, January 17, 2021 at 1:11 pm

        Yes that might be right Patrick.
        I thought registration of motor cars in Bangkok had gone up in the last ten years – it has not.

    • Avatar


      Sunday, January 17, 2021 at 12:25 pm

      Why should you care? You know where the airport is.

  2. Avatar

    Jesus Monroe

    Sunday, January 17, 2021 at 12:17 pm

    Good Point Toby. I wouldn’t mind living in Thailand one day but think where do I go for the burning off months…….these old lungs can’t take it anymore…….lol

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Sunday, January 17, 2021 at 9:30 pm

      To the hills – I look down on the smog in the valley, not up at it!

  3. Avatar


    Sunday, January 17, 2021 at 12:23 pm

    “…mechanical removal of the refuse and waste after harvesting, is both unpopular in Thailand and economically unviable for the small farmers…”

    I’ve always wondered what the cost to the government of providing free or nearly free tilling, discing, and/or composting services to small farmers would be compared to the cost to the country in health issues and lost productivity as a result of the burning.

    Of course, that would require systemic level thinking, which is difficult when the powers that be are focused on narrow political factors.

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Sunday, January 17, 2021 at 9:26 pm

      Unfortunately, Larry, “mechanical removal of the refuse and waste after harvesting” sounds very good, but it’s completely meaningless.

      Once you’ve “removed” the “refuse and waste” what do you do with it?

      Corn waste isn’t a problem as it can be used as straw, as cattle feed, as can rice bran which can also be used to make rice bran oil.

      The problem isn’t the cost of “tilling, dicing or composting”. The problem is that you CAN’T till, dice or compost sugar cane leaves.

      It doesn’t work.

      Till, dice or compost it back into the soil and all you do is make your soil unproductive and infertile so that you can’t grow anything.

      It simply doesn’t work!

      Unless there’s a viable alternative it’ll continue – that isn’t being an apologist, it’s just being realistic.

      • Avatar


        Saturday, February 20, 2021 at 6:11 pm

        I happened to be talking to a researcher about composting in Thailand recently and mentioned Issan John’s assertion that sugar cane waste can’t be composted and the researcher was surprised since composting sugar cane leaves and bagasse is now standard in some countries. This link was later sent to me.

        “Farmers shred the dry leaves left behind the cane harvest and mix them with dung produced by their livestock to make compost out of the mixture to be used as soil conditioner. Based on the quantities of dry leaves generated per one hectare (10,000 m2) of land, the compost piles or windrows will only require less than 100 m2 of the hectare (less than 1% of land area). Each hectare would generate about 5 tons of compost replacing about 10.4% of the amount of fertilizers used per hectare. Finally, the mix needs 12 weeks to compost”

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Sunday, January 17, 2021 at 10:10 pm

      … and FWIW, Larry, the government’s already paying farmers not to burn their fields during the harvest.

      All the farmers get a government subsidy of 85 baht per tonne, paid through the sugar cane factories, but those who sell unburnt sugar cane to the factories get an additional subsidy of 7 baht per tonne (as well as a better price from the factories anyway).

      The subsidies are worth about 10 billion baht altogether, with a tonne of sugar cane being around 1,300 baht plus at the moment at the collection points.

  4. Avatar


    Sunday, January 17, 2021 at 12:35 pm

    This high number of burning fires is definitely a problem. However, I suggest to check more careful what‘s behind the AQI levels. Many countries have different methods how to calculate AQI, but in every case several „ingredients“ are used for the calculation. Most people are connecting a high AQI level with a high PM2.5 level automatically. E.g. Consulting instead of yesterday and today resulted in ozone to be the dominant factor of poor AQI levels in Hua Hin. For me it comes down to the question „which source of information to trust more?“

    • Avatar


      Sunday, January 17, 2021 at 7:44 pm

      I have personally been monitoring pm2.5 at my home for a number of years, and I can say for a certainty that if there is burning within a few kilometers upwind of my home, the pm2.5 numbers skyrocket into unhealthy. But even on days where there are public air quality warnings around the area, my pm2.5 numbers tend to be quite low if there is no local burning.

  5. Avatar


    Sunday, January 17, 2021 at 3:14 pm

    Luckily the country’s greatest government minds have found a solution – spraying water into the air.

  6. Avatar


    Sunday, January 17, 2021 at 4:48 pm

    This must be fake news because issan john the oracle recently told us that the burning had not started yet!

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Sunday, January 17, 2021 at 9:49 pm

      No, Stu, what I told you was that the “burning season” hadn’t started yet, since in my view it goes from late January through to mid-April …

      … and if you do a search for “burning season chiang mai” you’ll find that’s not just my view but that of pretty much everyone else who knows which day of the week it is, except some put it a little later, starting in February …

      • Avatar


        Monday, January 18, 2021 at 9:41 am

        Its ok ij….. Its ok to be wrong sometimes. Nobody will think any less of you:)

        • Avatar

          Issan John

          Monday, January 18, 2021 at 10:51 am

          How about an “alternative”, Stu – or anyone else?

          Other than burn in place, what can you do with the cane leaves?

          Collect them and burn them somewhere else, adding to the pollution 24/7 in season from the sugar cane factories which is completely ignored here but at least possibly producing power?

          Make something out of them, other than paper which was niche and too expensive?

          I don’t know, but maybe someone else does …

          … although if they do they’re keeping it very quiet …

          • Avatar


            Monday, January 18, 2021 at 6:11 pm

            Oh sure…. I was more interested in pointing out to u that ur an opionated twat that loves to shoot down people’s comments and always has a demeaning tone whenever ur pallid fingers stroke that worn out keyboard you love to weild.

            And well, that on occasion you are just plain wrong as well as rude.

            Solutions to Thailands crop management…..? I suspect that any initiative would be unfortunately squandered by corrupt officials, poor management and uneducated rural communities.

          • Avatar


            Thursday, February 4, 2021 at 3:41 am

            In the southern USA where sugarcane is cultivated, waste is collected and processed to make building materials like OSB and MFD boards as well as insulation tiles. It’s all made with glue, saw dust, wood chips, sugar cane leaves and other organic waste. No burning is allowed due to strict EPA regulations. So the problem is not what to do with it but how can we enforce the ban?

  7. Avatar


    Sunday, January 17, 2021 at 8:31 pm

    Come on now, everyone knows it’s the fault of the tourists.

  8. Avatar

    Prof. Allium Cruciferous

    Sunday, January 17, 2021 at 8:32 pm

    “You can take the Thai out of the jungle,

    but you will never be able to take the jungle

    out of the Thai”

    • Avatar

      Mr cynic

      Tuesday, January 19, 2021 at 8:13 am

      Except they cut down all the hardwood trees down and flogged them off years ago and what remained of the jungle they burnt to the ground to grow one off cash crops and then all stood around scratching their heads looking at the remaining bit of charred earth afterwards.suprised they haven’t tried to blame the US for all this,perhaps they dropped agent orange on the country by mistake.
      Much prefer the girl and bar version of your Thai lore,now that one is 100 percent accurate.

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