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Keep it Green: Haunted by silence of the leaves

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Keep it Green: Haunted by silence of the leaves | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Anyone who travels around Phuket will have witnessed the infiltration of the oil palm as the area devoted to this species has increased three-fold since 2000.

Moreover, it is the avowed aim of the government to add 400,000 rai of oil palm plantations every year to our island landscape. By 2028, the authorities anticipate that 10 million rai of these man-made forests will dominate the scenery of Southern Thailand .

To a significant extent, the oil palm will replace the para rubber tree, another monoculture crop, since the profits that accrue from its oil are both more substantial and less subject to wild fluctuations than those made from cultivating hevea brasiliensis.

Why and wherefore? Well, we all know that the world, at least until the recent rash of fracking, was paranoid about the fast-depleting resources of fossil fuel and especially petroleum. How much longer could we drill and delve into the earth before the supply of this precious stuff petered out?

Vegetable alternatives such as palm oil were at hand. Converted into bio-diesel, they offered and still offer, a viable and supposedly more environmentally friendly alternative to the products of drilling and mining. Moreover, palm oil especially, has other important uses. It is so ubiquitous that it is found in about half the products on supermarket shelves.

But there are considerable ecological downsides. The increase of palm plantations – a three-fold increase in fifteen years across Southern Thailand and especially Phang Nga – has inevitably meant the depletion of lowland rainforest. While proponents of this initiative will point, quite properly, to the palm’s propensity – as with all trees – to act as a carbon sink and absorb large quantities of CO2, as well as limiting soil erosion, it has meant the demolition of virgin forest, profound damage to the natural environment, and massive loss of biodiversity.

While I have no statistics for Thailand, still fewer for Phuket, the figures for Malaysia assert that of the nation’s 80 mammal species, only 11 are able to survive in the artificial environment of the palm plantation.

In Indonesia, sophisticated creatures such as orang-utangs, cannot adapt to such radical changes in their habitat, and become easy prey for poachers who hunt them for food, the pet trade and so-called traditional medicine. The Sumatran tiger and Javan rhino, natives of countries where vast tracts of tropical forest have been cleared, are now endangered on account of habitat deprivation.

There are perceived ways of mitigating the damage. One study has suggested that supermarkets could place a price premium on items containing palm oil ingredients, provided the money raised went to forest conservation. Thus, if shoppers, who are apparently willing to pay for “conservation grade” palm oil, put their money where their mouth is, and if supermarket chiefs agreed to play ball, then the cash saved would more than make up for the extra costs incurred when conserving nearby forests.

Other suggestions include cultivating oil palms only on land formerly used for other crops such as rubber or rice, or preserving the jungle habitats of animals by locating plantations well away from existing rainforest.

Hevea braziliensis
does not have quite such a bad track record as elaeis guineensis. True, in Phuket at least, it is far more visible where unbroken avenues of rubber trees stretch away from every roadside.

Originally imported as seeds from Brazil by way of London , the trees have been cultivated here since 1900 or so. More than a century on, they comprise a staggering 84 per cent of the existing woodland; aboriginal evergreen forest accounts for a mere 7 per cent. Of the total land area of Phuket, more than a 100,000 rai is rubber plantation.

Yet though Thailand retains its position as the world’s leading producer, there is no longer the same demand for rubber. True, the Aids epidemic stimulated –if that be the right word – a global appetite for latex condoms – but most rubber has long since been synthesized without any need for the arduous business of cutting and collecting the milky fluid from incisions in the bark of living trees.

Furthermore, and because these trees have been a palpable presence in Phuket for so long, we tend to forget that their cultivation muscled out both virgin forest and its wildlife, or that they possess the disadvantage, shared by all monoculture crops, that of providing a sterile environment for mammals and birds. And because they attract pests such as scale insects, they require massive doses of pesticide as well as chemical fertilizer to keep them healthy.

Ever walked through a gloomy rubber grove? It is eerily silent.

Dr.Patrick Campbell has written more than 300 gardening columns for the Phuket Gazette. In the newspaper’s revised format, he will contribute one monthly piece on gardening and another on environmental issues.

If you have a question or a garden that you would like to see featured, email Patrick at drpaccampbell@gmail.com. Many of his past articles and his academic and creative publications can be accessed at patrickaccampbell.wordpress.com.

— Patrick Campbell

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Bangkok

Tax on salt content being considered

Greeley Pulitzer

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Tax on salt content being considered | The Thaiger

The Excise Department is considering imposing a tax on the salt content of food to encourage food producers to reduce the sodium content of snacks, instant noodles and seasoning cubes.

The director of the Office of Tax Planning said that the department is discussing a limit on the amount of sodium food can contain, in line with the standard set by the World Health Organization (WHO), which is 2,000 milligrams of salt per day.

In reality, Thai people consume an average of 1,000 milligrams per meal, making their daily intake well above WHO guidelines, according to the director.

He said any tax imposed would be at a level which would encourage food producers to reduce the sodium in their processed food without being punitive, adding that the proposal isn’t intended to generate more tax revenue, but to help protect the health of consumers. Excessive sodium in the diet can lead to high blood pressure and kidney disease.

Fish sauce, soy sauce and salt would not be taxed.

SOURCE: thaipbsworld.com

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News

Water shortage warnings in 22 provinces

Greeley Pulitzer

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Water shortage warnings in 22 provinces | The Thaiger

People living in 22 Thai provinces are being warned to prepare for shortages of drinking water during the upcoming dry season, due to start on November 1st.

The warning was issued by the National Water Resources Office, citing low levels in reservoirs, which are the main sources for tap water production waterworks in 22 provinces.

Areas at risk identified by the office are in northern, north-eastern, eastern and southern provinces.

Measures have been adopted by agencies charged with dealing with water shortages. including dredging water channels to allow greater volumes of water to flow into reservoirs, drilling underground wells, enlarging storage ponds and the purchase of water to supply to those in urgent need.

The Royal Irrigation Department has announced that people should use water sparingly.

There are currently about 6 billion cubic metres of usable water in reservoirs in the affected provinces, with 5 billion cubic metres reserved for consumption and ecological preservation, leaving only 1 billion cubic metres for use in agriculture.

This means farmers in the Chao Phraya river basin may not be able to grow a second crop of rice this year.

SOURCE: thaipbsworld.com

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Bangkok

Green Day heading back to BKK in 2020

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Green Day heading back to BKK in 2020 | The Thaiger

Green Day, five-time Grammy Award winners, are embarking on a global tour in 2020, including a stop-over in Bangkok during March. The rock ‘n’ roll Hall of Fame inductees will perform a series of concerts throughout Europe, UK, North America and Asia.

“Green Day Live in Bangkok” takes place on March 11, 2020 at Impact Arena, Muang Thong Thani. But it’s not their first time. Green Day sold out concerts in their last Thai live gigs in 1996 and 2010.

Formed in 1986 in Berkeley, California, Green Day is one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time, with more than 70 million records sold worldwide and 10 billion cumulative online streams of their music and performances. Their 1994 breakout album “Dookie” is widely credited with popularising and reviving mainstream interest in punk rock, catapulting a career-long run of No 1 hit singles.

In 2004, Green Day released the rock opera “American Idiot”, selling more than 7 million copies in the US alone and taking home the Grammy Award for Best Rock Album. In 2010, a stage adaptation of “American Idiot” debuted on Broadway to critical and commercial acclaim. Entertainment Weekly called Green Day, “The most influential band of their generation,” while Rolling Stone said, “Green Day have inspired more young bands to start than any act this side of KISS, and that doesn’t seem to be changing.”

Green Day Live in Bangkok 2020 is on March 11, 2020 at Impact Arena, Muang Thong Thani.

Ticket prices start at 2,000 baht and tickets go on sale on November 2 at all ThaiTicketMajor outlets via www.livenation.co.th or www.thaiticketmajor.com or call: 02 262 3838 for more information.

SOURCE: The Nation

Green Day heading back to BKK in 2020 | News by The Thaiger

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