Air Unsafe in Five Northern Thailand Provinces Due to Agricultural Fires

Typical forest fire in the Chiang Mai area of Thailand, the smoke from which descends into town and makes people sick Copyright Silviapef, Creative Commons


According to Thailand’s Pollution Control Department (PCD) the air is unsafe in at least five of Thailand’s northern provinces due to farmers burning leaves, agricultural waste and fields. Not surprising as Thailand seems to have little rule of law when it comes to what can and cannot be burnt, and when, as is also evidenced in Bangkok. In fact, I can guarantee on any relatively nice clear day (we get few of these in Bangkok, one of the world’s most polluted cities), someone on my soi will eventually start a fire to burn garbage.

The PCD says Lampang had the worst quality of air, followed by Phrae, Lamphun, Phayao and Chiang Rai provinces. From my experience, Chiang Mai isn’t far behind as it’s rare you get a day in Chiang Mai without smoke coming from somewhere from the area’s many agricultural fires. It’s sometimes so bad it makes it difficult to breath and, if you have asthma or some other breathing problems, it can be quite scary.

The Public Health Ministry is also warning this level of smoke and the particles that come from it can be extremely dangerous to people living in the area, as well as people traveling to it even for just a few days. “It affects the heart, blood vessels, respiratory systems, skin and eyes,” permanent secretary Dr Paijit Warachits said yesterday in an interview with The Nation newspaper.

Of course, problems from agricultural fires in Thailand are reported every year, particularly when it gets so bad in Chiang Mai you can’t see more than a few feet in front of your face. Unfortunately, Thailand’s government, as always, will tut-tut about this problem but nothing will be done. Mark my words, we’ll get another ‘news story’ about northern Thailand air quality next year, and nothing will have changed.