Chiang Mai tops world’s most polluted cities

Photo taken from Chiang Mai Local Tour

Chiang Mai province in northern Thailand has been blanketed by worsening haze, catapulting it to the top of the list of the world’s ten most polluted cities. The thick smog is a direct consequence of forest fires that have been burning unabated for approximately two weeks.

The Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA) detected 1,420 hotspots on Monday alone. Of these, 193 were located in Chiang Mai. Satellite information revealed that the hotspots were distributed across various areas, with 490 in forest conservation zones, 375 in forest reserve areas, 237 in agricultural regions, 186 in land reform areas, and the remaining in community areas.

Hotspots were not exclusive to Thailand. Cambodia was identified as having 2,489 hotspots, followed closely by Myanmar with 2,279, Laos with 1,210, and Vietnam with 365.

The forest fires in Chiang Mai have shown no signs of abating, with fires currently blazing in Ob Luang National Park, Ob Tho, Mae Chaem, Ob Khan, and Doi Suthep-Pui. The wind has carried the dust and smoke into urban areas, exacerbating the haze situation.

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Kritsayam Khongsatree, the director of the 16th Conservation Management Office, stated that resources are being mobilised to combat a forest fire in Ob Luang, located in the Hot district. He issued a stern warning of legal action against individuals implicated in forest burning as five new hotspots have been detected. The fires have continued to rage in the province for over two weeks.

To quell the flames, over 220 officials were deployed on Monday night to battle the fire at Doi Pha Dam in Ob Luang National Park. The fire, which started on February 22, has already caused damage to about 220 rai of land.

Fire suppression

Touching on the issue of forest fires, Chiang Mai Deputy Governor Tosapon Puanudom stated that most fires are created by humans. He stressed that attempts to extinguish them have been hampered by budget limitations and regulations. The responsibility of combating forest fires has been transferred to local administrative bodies. However, a lack of funds and rain has made the task more daunting.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin yesterday urged the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry to form a team to collaborate with Cambodia in mitigating cross-border haze. He mentioned that the Foreign Affairs Ministry has already informed the Cambodian government about the hotspots in its country and dispatched a team to discuss the establishment of a joint team.

The situation remains grim as seven northern provinces recorded extremely unsafe levels of PM2.5 pollutants yesterday morning. The levels ranged from 92.7µg/m³ to 75.7µg/m³, causing further concern for the inhabitants of these regions.

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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