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Thailand's Most Polluted Air Is In The North


sriracha john

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Khun Priceless,

Many, many thanks for helping elevate, and inform, this discussion with an "epidemiological" perspective based on your research and quantitative data !

Some ideas I consider corollary to your analysis :

1. exacerbation by air-pollution of exiting disease precursors or processes vs. air-pollution as a general "stressor" on the entire physical system. in contrast to acute and specific disease processes (bronchitis, etc.) resulting directly from incidents of high-exposure.

2. age-related vulnerability : with age, with physical and immune system decline, increased risk for both exacerbation of existing conditiions and further compromise of "weak points" in the physical system, and triggering of acute disease processes.

3. immune-compromise vulnerability : the result of non-air related disease processes, like cancer, HIV, etc. may leave the immune system either permanently compromised, or compromised for extended periods of time.

4. possible interaction of air pollution with other environmental contaminants related to level of exposure (i.e., synergy, potentiation, catalysis, "trigger" effects).

5. lifestyle vulnerability : diet, health, alcohol and drug abuse, presence or absence of cardiovascular (aerobic) fitness, sedentary vs. active, etc.

Finally, I think what would be interesting ... as a way to "examine" a hypothesis that certain periods of high-exposure triggered long-term effects, even though yearly averages may be less than at toxic levels, would be to examine incidence data for certain specific diseases over time looking for periodicity (although this would be very difficult technically because of multiple confounding factors).

Hope you will persist in presenting your thoughts and research !

regards, ~o:37;

Thank you for your kind words. I would however not categorize what I have been doing as "research". I have merely tabulated available data and performed some, rather elementary, statistical analysis of it.

As to your questions, I unfortunately have no medical background and cannot really comment on them. From what I have found and read (and understood?) on the 'net, it seems that your implied assumptions are correct. It has been pointed out that groups with high susceptibility to problems, caused by Particulate Matter (PM) air pollution, include the very young, the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions. It also appears that PM pollution can interact with, and be exacerbated by, other pollutants and things like life style.

As to your final point about further research, I would be most interested in reading the results of such research. Unfortunately I am no way qualified to participate in such studies, fun as it probably would be.

I can strongly recommend the WHO document that I have referred to earlier in this thread, and many times before that( http://www.euro.who.int/Document/E90038.pdf ). The reason that I like it is that:

- WHO is reputable organisation

- The report is comparatively recent (2005)

- It is not based on an individual research project, but rather on a (seemingly) comprehensive overview of most available research, from different institutions and parts of the world.

/ Priceless

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Khun Priceless,

Many, many thanks for helping elevate, and inform, this discussion with an "epidemiological" perspective based on your research and quantitative data !

Some ideas I consider corollary to your analysis :

1. exacerbation by air-pollution of exiting disease precursors or processes vs. air-pollution as a general "stressor" on the entire physical system. in contrast to acute and specific disease processes (bronchitis, etc.) resulting directly from incidents of high-exposure.

2. age-related vulnerability : with age, with physical and immune system decline, increased risk for both exacerbation of existing conditiions and further compromise of "weak points" in the physical system, and triggering of acute disease processes.

3. immune-compromise vulnerability : the result of non-air related disease processes, like cancer, HIV, etc. may leave the immune system either permanently compromised, or compromised for extended periods of time.

4. possible interaction of air pollution with other environmental contaminants related to level of exposure (i.e., synergy, potentiation, catalysis, "trigger" effects).

5. lifestyle vulnerability : diet, health, alcohol and drug abuse, presence or absence of cardiovascular (aerobic) fitness, sedentary vs. active, etc.

Finally, I think what would be interesting ... as a way to "examine" a hypothesis that certain periods of high-exposure triggered long-term effects, even though yearly averages may be less than at toxic levels, would be to examine incidence data for certain specific diseases over time looking for periodicity (although this would be very difficult technically because of multiple confounding factors).

Hope you will persist in presenting your thoughts and research !

regards, ~o:37;

Thank you for your kind words. I would however not categorize what I have been doing as "research". I have merely tabulated available data and performed some, rather elementary, statistical analysis of it.

As to your questions, I unfortunately have no medical background and cannot really comment on them. From what I have found and read (and understood?) on the 'net, it seems that your implied assumptions are correct. It has been pointed out that groups with high susceptibility to problems, caused by Particulate Matter (PM) air pollution, include the very young, the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions. It also appears that PM pollution can interact with, and be exacerbated by, other pollutants and things like life style.

As to your final point about further research, I would be most interested in reading the results of such research. Unfortunately I am no way qualified to participate in such studies, fun as it probably would be.

I can strongly recommend the WHO document that I have referred to earlier in this thread, and many times before that( http://www.euro.who.int/Document/E90038.pdf ). The reason that I like it is that:

- WHO is reputable organisation

- The report is comparatively recent (2005)

- It is not based on an individual research project, but rather on a (seemingly) comprehensive overview of most available research, from different institutions and parts of the world.

/ Priceless

Sorry, seems a post was lost in cyberspace. I'll try again.

There seems to have been an intervening post! Well, the 2005 WHO report is definitely not "drivel." In fact, I'll attach another one like it (but broadly regional) on indoor pollution, a 2002 WHO report on developing countries, since that concern has come up from time to time.

The only problem with these reports is that they are dated in a dynamic research field in which more meta studies [in statistics, a meta-analysis combines the results of several studies that address a set of related research hypotheses] and regional reports have been done. Several are referenced above, or are referred to in those referenced above.

To identify two apparent trends, there seems to be more concern about PM<2.5 pollution which makes up part of PM<10 pollution and more concern regarding the impact of short-term exposure as opposed to long-term exposure (as reported in annual averages) on public health. Both are relevant to Chiang Mai because of the type as well as the seasonality of pollution here.

WHO_SDE_OEH_02.05.pdf

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This thread has been very useful in providing the average expats with information on the topic.

I thank all who took the time to inform me (and others).

However, in view of past years peaks and yearly re-occurrences as well as minimal coverage from the Thai-speaking media and the lack of response from the authorities (as indicated in past posts), I think some sort of action to alert and/or mobilize the population should occur. Of course, most of us are not citizens of Thailand and it could be a mistake to meddle into their affairs (note that I feel that expats should have the right to lobby governments as I am allowed to live here and I do pay taxes). What can we do as expats other than complaining and writing about this issue without jeopardizing our situation? Is the Chiang Mai Thai elite not concerned about this? Is it a clear lack of political will from politicians at the regional or national levels? Who could be targeted in the population to provoke change? I feel we should focus now that we have very useful data on change.

* I apologize if this has been talked about in the past, but I simply don't have the time at this moment to research if this took place. In any case, another kick at the can might be useful!

Edited by rethaired
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This thread has been very useful in providing the average expats with information on the topic.

I thank all who took the time to inform me (and others).

However, in view of past years peaks and yearly re-occurrences as well as minimal coverage from the Thai-speaking media and the lack of response from the authorities (as indicated in past posts), I think some sort of action to alert and/or mobilize the population should occur. Of course, most of us are not citizens of Thailand and it could be a mistake to meddle into their affairs (note that I feel that expats should have the right to lobby governments as I am allowed to live here and I do pay taxes). What can we do as expats other than complaining and writing about this issue without jeopardizing our situation? Is the Chiang Mai Thai elite not concerned about this? Is it a clear lack of political will from politicians at the regional or national levels? Who could be targeted in the population to provoke change? I feel we should focus now that we have very useful data on change.

* I apologize if this has been talked about in the past, but I simply don't have the time at this moment to research if this took place. In any case, another kick at the can might be useful!

No apologies necessary. There have actually been discussion and some very constructive suggestions made before, but you are right in understanding they are hard to find on multiple related threads.

There might be a few xenophobic chauvanists out there concerned about foreigners being constructively active in drawing attention to common problems and concerns. I have found quite the opposite, actually, and that includes interacting with Thai activists to improve things but also people from neighbors to politicians and bureaucrats.

Other than some expected cultural variation, the social dynamic of the situation seems very similar to what any society goes through in addressing and dealing with such issues. I think that it is worth noting that in economically well-developed countries there have been and are more resources to deal with public health and environmental problems generally.

So, what to do? Don't expect things to change by next Tuesday, but press for change. You have lots of company in Thailand. Any progress has to come along a broad front: information, education and enforcement. Political will can be generated from different direections. Some quick thoughts on easy steps to take:

Set an individual example and encourage others to follow suit: everything from turming down the air con to buying and using appropriate vehicles, not using plastic bottles and bags to mulching instead of burning, recycling, buying recycled products and so on.

Be vocal with the news media and with officials! Write letters to local, provincial and national government leaders. Silence is not support for change; it supports inaction. [This encouragment comes from the Thai medical community as well as from Thai activists for change. I know of one experienced and knowledgable activist who is frustrated with foreigners who just complain among themselves, not bothering to do something so simple as to write a letter.]

Join in the effort in other ways. Join or support organizations such as UDIF << http://www.udif.or.th/indexE.htm >>. UDIF has a broader view about developing a sustainable city in a sustainable country in a sustainable world, but is also very involved locally: << http://www.udif.or.th/210751/210751.html >> Stick around and you'll find ways to get constructively involved.

See roadside fires? Report them! 053-409-345. 0r dial 199. Put the number on your mobile phone.

No major suggestions offered above. Just start by stepping out of your comfort zone!

Edited by Mapguy
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I have been doing further research regarding the impact on health, in particular of high concentrations of PM<2.5 fine particulate matter which makes up the bulk of Chiang Mai seasonal haze.

Interested in your comment concerning the <2.5 micron particles.

Do you have a distribution function showing particle size vs number

density ?

All I have seen quoted in the many previous posts is an integrated mass

density with an upper limit of 10 microns.

g

It makes perfect, bog-standard-sense (and I'm not a doctor of any sort) - the smaller the c_ap, the deeper in your lungs it will lodge / more difficult to expunge. (Sorry, wrong placement of this reply! Should be below... Ta,Scott)

Unfortunately the total concentration of PM<10 (i.e. "fine" particles <2.5 microns and "coarse" particles 2.5-10 microns) is the only thing at present measured in Thailand (and a lot of other countries). The focus on PM<2.5 as the main cause of long-term problems is based on fairly recent research. According to a WHO report ( http://www.euro.who.int/Document/E90038.pdf ) a "ratio of 0.5 [between PM<2.5 and PM<10] is close to that observed typically in urban areas in developing countries" (page 277). Until such time as PM<2.5 is widely measured, I guess we'll just have to rely on this ratio (or maybe 0.4 - 0.6).

/ Priceless

And trust the govts. / agencies around the globe "looking into this problem" to inform us and TRY to solve this situation... oh boy!! Think I'll buy a good BA set and 2 MORE room air filters... Although, I tend to agree with you about WHO - they appear to be reputable...

Edited by scotbeve
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WHO (the World Health Organization), a specialized agency of the United Nations, is most certainly reputable, and so are several other organizations whether they be governmental or non-governmental. The organizations and agencies which focus on pollution probably and understandably are more up-to-date in some ways than WHO which has a massive area of responsibility. These are the guys who led the successful effort to eradicate small pox and are now hot after eradicating polio, not easy public health chores; not to mention WHO's leadership in the fight against AIDS.

I have already referred to the Clean Air Initiative << http://www.cleanairnet.org/cai/1403/channel.html >>. Another, with a wider scope of interest is a very sophisticated organization called the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) << http://www.nrdc.org/ >>.

And, yeah, you can pretty much trust your nose and throat, too, more than some people, who get statistically sniffy, pooh pooh that notion! You can choke on too many ill-presented numbers as easily as on bad air. I should add, of course, that being a competent statistician isn't easy work.

Edited by Mapguy
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I believe that these articles belong appropriately here on this thread, not elsewhere, so that there is some continuity in information and discussion:

Rainfall cleans dust, air in Chiang Mai

Rain starting to lay the dust in Chiang Mai

CHIANG MAI: -- A few days of rainfall have eased the problem of fine dust in Chiang Mai, but health officials are still concerned about residents' health after 30,000 people reportedly suffered respiratory illnesses from March 1-17.

Local authorities are continuing their anti-outdoor-burning campaign, opening fountains and introducing twig-crusher machines to tackle the problem.

Following three to four days of rainfall, Chiang Mai's air-quality stations yesterday found PM10 fine-particle dust to be lower than the safety standard of 120 micrograms per cubic metre.

Earlier this month the province had been shrouded by fine dust for 11 consecutive days, especially on March 14, when the dust in the city centre peaked at a massive 238.3ตg/m3.

The poor air quality caused 30,000 people to suffer from respiratory illnesses, and the number of patients could reach 100,000 by month-end, said Public Health Office academic Molwipa Sirihorachai yesterday.

The number of asthma patients had doubled compared to the same period last year, she said.

Forest fires were blamed as a major cause of the problem. Royal Forestry Department academic Wichai Kitmee said that from February 26 to March 10 fires had ravaged 6,000 rai compared to the 9,000 rai damaged last year.

He said there would be another burning from late March into April to clear 180,000 rai for farming. The last time farmers burnt their land was in November-December to clear 55,000 rai, he said.

Meanwhile, Chiang Mai Administrative Organisation president Boonlert Buranuprakorn said the agency had spent Bt4 million on 32 twig-crusher machines for all districts to study the possibility of farmers using them instead of resorting to burning to clear their land.

-----------------

Drought hits northern Thailand; Stored water supplies dropping

PHICHIT, March 22 (TNA) - More than 200 farmers in the northern province of Phichit protested Sunday, demanding that the Royal Irrigation Department (RID) deepen provincial canals so that they can receive enough irrigation water for their rice crop as severe drought batters the region.

The protesting farmers gathered at a dyke in Sam Ngam district saying they held the RID responsible as over 10,000 rai of rice seedlings have already died because there is insufficient water for farming.

They petitioned the RID chief through the deputy department chief, urging him to give urgent help solve the water shortage problem. The protesters later dispersed without violence.

In Lampang province, severe drought is already parching 13 districts, and next month will be worse, unless relieved by the rains. Over 200,000 villagers are affected.

However, in Chiang Mai, more than 1,600 people in Hang Dong district are suffering after heavy rain and winds damaged their houses were damaged by a tropical storm late Friday. Officials have visited the area to provide assistance.

The northern region’s Meteorological Department warns that the lower North faces more thunderstorms in the next few days. Scattered showers will be seen between March 25-28.

Meanwhile, water stored at Sirikit dam in the northern province of Uttaradit now stood at only 5.8 billion cubic metres, or 61 per cent of the total capacity. The authorities are conserving water supplies, releasing only between 30-35 million cubic metres of water daily to help farmers as only five million cubic metres of water flows into the dam a day.

-- TNA 2009-03-22

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3 forest fires on Doi Suthep-Pui detected

Three forest fires on the Doi Suthep – Pui National Park area were reported today ( March 22) and caused a wide range of smoke.

The first spot was near Mae Chok reservoir behind the 700th Anniversary Chiang Mai Sport Complex. The second spot was behind Nong Ho shooting range near the irrigation canal road while the third spot was at Ban Mae Hia at the foothill of Doi Suthep near the city area.

90 officials were deployed to extinguish fires on foot since some areas were not reachable by cars. The fire was controlled in one hour but the Dipterocarp Forest was destroyed by seven rai, in total.

Chiang Mai Natural Resources and Environment Director Puchong Insompan said that he had assigned park officials to intensify their forest patrols. Officials are allowed to arrest villagers if they are found to set fires in search of wild products.

During the past month, there has been 57 fires damaging a forest area of 273 rai while the total number of fires found in the province was more than 1,000 times damaging a forest area of nearly 7,000 rai.

- ThaiNews / 2009-03-22

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The truth: air in Chiang Mai is killing people

Living in Chiang Mai these last two months has been a bit like living in a garage with the car engine running, with the front port closed and with only small windows open high up for ventilation.

I use the garage analogy because it seems fashionable to blame the wood smoke from burning of forests and fields, to blame the Burmese and the Lao, the minorities and the farmers, rather than another major culprit for Chiang Mai's dreadful air _ the dust and toxic gases created by traffic.

Developers have been and remain busy along the new middle and outer ring roads, tearing up rice fields in one place and filling them in another for housing projects, factories and shopping malls. A belt of new suburbia girds the city, and its inhabitants almost totally depend on the use of private motor transportation.

Letter to the Editor continued here:

http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion...-killing-people

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3 forest fires on Doi Suthep-Pui detected

Three forest fires on the Doi Suthep – Pui National Park area were reported today ( March 22) and caused a wide range of smoke.

The first spot was near Mae Chok reservoir behind the 700th Anniversary Chiang Mai Sport Complex. The second spot was behind Nong Ho shooting range near the irrigation canal road while the third spot was at Ban Mae Hia at the foothill of Doi Suthep near the city area.

90 officials were deployed to extinguish fires on foot since some areas were not reachable by cars. The fire was controlled in one hour but the Dipterocarp Forest was destroyed by seven rai, in total.

Chiang Mai Natural Resources and Environment Director Puchong Insompan said that he had assigned park officials to intensify their forest patrols. Officials are allowed to arrest villagers if they are found to set fires in search of wild products.

During the past month, there has been 57 fires damaging a forest area of 273 rai while the total number of fires found in the province was more than 1,000 times damaging a forest area of nearly 7,000 rai.

- ThaiNews / 2009-03-22

John,

The mind boggles as there are 4 large military bases along highway Rt. 107 from Lanna golf course to Mae rim.... Some in walking distance of the fires and... oh yeah, some of the fires started by the military!!!There's even the guys on the paralites EVERY day flying around there in the smoke!!! Not accessable by car or truck?? Get the boys in green to work on the hills on / in / around Mae Sa valley with large water pack hand sprayers on their backs....

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I'm sorry to hear you folks are suffering so much from air pollution. I'd heard about this a month or more ago, so thought I'd check whether it's still an issue. It appears to be and now I will not visit Chiang Mai as earlier planned. I get enough bad air here in Bangkok, thank you, although it looks like your local conditions are a lot worse.

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3 forest fires on Doi Suthep-Pui detected

Three forest fires on the Doi Suthep – Pui National Park area were reported today ( March 22) and caused a wide range of smoke.

The first spot was near Mae Chok reservoir behind the 700th Anniversary Chiang Mai Sport Complex. The second spot was behind Nong Ho shooting range near the irrigation canal road while the third spot was at Ban Mae Hia at the foothill of Doi Suthep near the city area.

90 officials were deployed to extinguish fires on foot since some areas were not reachable by cars. The fire was controlled in one hour but the Dipterocarp Forest was destroyed by seven rai, in total.

Chiang Mai Natural Resources and Environment Director Puchong Insompan said that he had assigned park officials to intensify their forest patrols. Officials are allowed to arrest villagers if they are found to set fires in search of wild products.

During the past month, there has been 57 fires damaging a forest area of 273 rai while the total number of fires found in the province was more than 1,000 times damaging a forest area of nearly 7,000 rai.

- ThaiNews / 2009-03-22

John,

The mind boggles as there are 4 large military bases along highway Rt. 107 from Lanna golf course to Mae rim.... Some in walking distance of the fires and... oh yeah, some of the fires started by the military!!!There's even the guys on the paralites EVERY day flying around there in the smoke!!! Not accessable by car or truck?? Get the boys in green to work on the hills on / in / around Mae Sa valley with large water pack hand sprayers on their backs....

From today's Chiang Mai Mail:

Working committee chief demands CM disaster alert

CMM reporters

At a recent meeting attended by representatives of various city organisations, Wichai Kitmee, chairman of a Chiang Mai working committee on smog, smoke and wildfire issues, proposed that the city and its suburbs should be placed on disaster alert due to the continuing high levels of pollution.

Measurements of particulate matter in the air have continually been over the recommended limits for more than two weeks, with smog blanketing the city. It seems unlikely that illegal burning in agricultural areas can now be stopped.

The poor air quality has resulted in more than 13,000 residents seeking medical assistance during the period. In the previous six months, the Chiang Mai area has suffered more than 1,000 forest fires, affecting over 7,000 rai of land. Worst affected areas include Mae Cham district, where most of the wildfires occurred, Jomtong, Hod, Doi Saket and Chiang Dao.

http://' target="_blank">3rd Army to join in forest fire fighting

Saksit Meesubkwang

A meeting at the premises of the Pha Muang Task Force, chaired by Lt. Gen. Tanongsak Apirakyodhin, commander of the 3rd Region Army, and attended by government office chiefs, was held recently to discuss the high levels of pollution caused by continuing forest fires.

n5-army-smog.jpg
Lt. Gen. Tanongsak Apirakyodhin addresses the media at the meeting held March 11.

In response to the immediate crisis, the military will allocate its forces stationed at Naresuan and Pha Muang, in order to assist in dealing with the problem. A special unit has been set up at the 7th Artillery’s base on Chotana Road, Mae Rim, from which 1200 soldiers will operate as fire-fighters. The unit will continue its operations until April 30.

Lt. Gen. Tanongsak stated that the target for seeing a reduction in the smog would be 7 days, with reports on air quality being submitted every 3 days.

After the meeting, Lt Gen Tanongsak was shown by air the worst-affected forest areas in Muang, Samoeng and Mae Cham, before travelling to Mae Hong Son and Chiang Rai to discuss the situation in those areas with the respective governors.

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  • 2 weeks later...

An article by Pim from CityLife (April, 2009):

Burns Like Fire

We all got complaisant. Last year was a pretty good year in Chiang Mai for pollution, and with memories of gold fish, we were all caught unawares this year when the smog began its descent to smother us. Eyes streaming with tears, noses bunged up with gunk, throats parched, skin crackling and flaking and humour evaporating as fast as the humidity, it has been a bad few weeks. We have all read the statistics _ Chiang Mai's pollution level is one of the worst in Thailand, way above acceptable and way beyond danger levels _ but frankly we can see, and feel, it for ourselves.

"What can we do?" Citylife's readers email.

Well, let's start with something. To that end, Richard Rhodes, who owns a luxury colonial style villa for rent in Chiang Mai's Mae On District, Lanna Hill House, is a great example of action versus complaint. In 2007, his children suffered from respiratory problems and his business has been affected by the dearth of visitors during smog-season. A man of action, he invited Alex Putnam, who had been doing research on organic food production in Thailand, following his degree from Bristol University in Geography, to head up a project researching the causes and effects of deliberate fire burning in Mae On. One of their mutual concerns is that forest fires account for 18% of global carbon emissions; they are the second biggest cause of climate change. (The biggest being energy generation at a whopping 24 %.) So for the past two months Alex has been living in Mae On and conducting hands on _ and mainly legwork _ research, focusing on the root cause of the fires. His results will be published in mid April (see details at end of article).

The purpose of the study is to understand the reasons and consequences of deliberate fire burning during the dry season in Mae On District so as to attempt to prevent and minimise the number of fires occurring in the region. Putnam started by collecting data on fire burning during February and March of this year, looking at the number of fires, areas under fire, and estimated carbon emissions as well as assessing and understanding the reasons behind such deliberate burning. He is now looking into consequences of such burning, including health and tourism impacts. Once published, he will use his report to mobilise government and private sectors into action…this is where, hopefully, you come in.

Mae On has been classified as a Hot Spot due to the concentration, and size, of forest and road-side fires. As a matter of fact, between the 28th of January until today, Putnam has personally seen 54 fires in the area (agriculture 7%, roadside 24% forest fires 25%, domestic 12%, and open areas 16%). While many of us are not familiar with Mae On, this area is downwind from Chiang Mai city, and north-easterly winds join the region's fate with our very own.

By interviewing various officials and villagers in the area, he found that mushroom (specifically, northern favourite, hed tor) collection appeared to be the main reason for forest fires as a kilogramme can fetch as much as 2-300 baht, quite a windfall for poor villagers. While there is no proof whatsoever that burning encourages growth, an excuse many villagers offer for their fire starting, Putnam finds that many admit that they burn to gain easier access into the forest.

In mid-March, Putnam trekked through a deciduous forest with a local crop farmer, Som, who also doubles as hunter of squirrel and gatherer of mushrooms and bamboo during the dry season. Here are excerpts from his notes:

"As soon as we walked into the forest area, it was clear to see that it had been extensively burnt, scorched black earth spread out around us, Som tells us that some fires get out of control and burn larger areas than intended. As we trekked through a dry Dipterocarp forest, Som began collecting wood, explaining that even though it was illegal he was confident of not being caught. The area was covered by large swathes of bamboo, essentially a grass, which indicates its competitiveness against local trees in land degraded from multiple fires. We reached a clearing which had an eerie feel to it, almost warlike as if it had just been ravaged by a napalm bomb! The only signs of life were new grass shoots which reminded me of burnt roadside verges that become colonised with new grasses, perfect for cattle grazing,

and reason for most road-side fire burning…We reached our highest point of the trek, bordering on a National Park, and noticed less signs of burning. Som explained that fires are started at the base of the mountain, then gain in width as they ascend [hence the lines one sees creeping up Doi Suthep this time of the year], finally dying out as they reach the top…Towards the end of our descent we were surprised to see forests with green trees high as 30 metres. Som explained that this was the communal area around the village and prohibition on burning was understood amongst the villagers…We turned around, however, and noticed a fire creeping towards us.

We headed back out of the forest when all of a sudden, when we thought we had seen enough degradation for one day, Som knelt down on the path and lit the verge. We stood, astonished, as another blaze took hold. Som announced that this was now his land, and it was not illegal to burn to prepare the land to plant a crop of maize. Som, then walked off, leaving the fire to tend itself. When I asked him about the complaints about fire burning, he replied, "It's just our normal way of life, we have used fire for many years. The issue about smoke is a recent occurrence due to the late rains and hotter air temperatures. It doesn't last forever. When the rainy season comes the conditions will improve."

And that was that.

Putman explains that many areas in Mae On have little to no forest fires because villagers have had bad experiences of deforestation in the past and combined with educational campaigns this has led to stronger community forestry management, proving that with strong leadership, results are obvious. Unfortunately it requires bad experiences…once burnt, twice shy…as well as education to mobilise action.

Another complication is that authorities often feel compassion towards villagers who are so poor that burning and gathering jungle products is their only means of likelihood, knowing that the 5-10,000 baht fine is simply too high a price for them to pay.

The local Tambol Administrative Organisations, and National Park authorities simply do not have the budget or resources to combat this widespread problem. In some areas, when community leaders have taken action, and local bodies shown interest, they have been very successful in mobilising support from villagers, and it is these success stories which Putnam is looking into, and soon plans to ask for our city's community support to implement. Year-round education and awareness initiatives focusing on prevention, not knee-jerk reactions, can really go a long way to helping all of us.

For more information, or to join Rhodes and Putnam's efforts, visit their web site, www.e-photoframe.co.uk. You can also follow their progress by reading their blog at www.e-photoframe.co.uk/blog. Our own site, www.chiangmaicitylife.com will also have a link to their report when it is published.

For more information on stats you can visit the Pollution Control Department's site to track pollution levels in Chiang Mai http://www.pcd.go.th/AirQuality/Regional/Q...m?task=findsite.

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  • 4 months later...

Please see Post #222 above.

From time to time I have tried to post useful information for those interested in improving air quality in Chiang Mai. Relatively speaking, the air quality right now is wonderful, especially compared to what the region experiences in the period mid-February - early April.

If you are new to this problem and you want to learn more about it, then you can read more thoroughly. Most of the discussion focuses on seasonal air pollution caused by Chiang Mai's geography, weather and extensive man made agricultural fires. To search for threads, key wording phrases like "air quality," "smog," and "pollution" will turn up most. The topic of this thread, which reflects an alarmist newspaper headline of some months ago, is really misleading. I wish OP would get it changed. Nonetheless, this thread on the topic of air pollution seems to include much more useful information that most.

Here is further information about some efforts locally and some of those who are involved. It focuses on transportation pollution. If you want to follow through for more information or wish to participate, contact Rainer Einzenberger of the Heinrich Boell Foundation ( http://www.hbfasia.org/southeastasia/thailand/ ) and Dr. Duongchan Apavatjrut Charoenmuang, senior researcher at Chiang Mai University’s Social Research Institute and Secretary-General of the Urban Development Institute Foundation ( http://www.udif.or.th/indexE.htm )among others.

Air pollution and climate change: Chiang Mai’s potentials and challenges in the transportation sector. 1st lead up event towards HBF Chiang Mai’s 10th anniversary

In the 2009 hot season, Chiang Mai residents were once again plagued by smog, haze and intolerable high levels of air pollution. Although it became generally known in the meantime that the city’s air quality has been steadily deteriorating over the past ten ore more years, not much has changed. All too often, the big smoke clouds are explained with the burning of forests and waste by villagers in the rural areas. While this may be (partly) true, it is disregarding the contributions of Chiang Mai’s urban dwellers. It is overlooking that the transportation sector accounts for a major share of the air pollution in urban areas. Therefore the Heinrich Boell Foundation Chiang Mai decided to pick up the issue of Air pollution and climate change: Chiang Mai’s potentials and challenges in the transportation sector for its 1st lead up event towards HBF Chiang Mai’s 10th anniversary.

On 24th of June 2009 more than 40 people - among them academics, representatives from the local government, civil society and the private sector attended the bi-lingual English/Thai event, moderated and interpreted by Pipob Udomittipong, to discuss solutions to the problems in the city’s transport sector. The event was opened with a brief welcome address by Jana Mittag, director of the Chiang Mai office, followed by a short movie introducing the Heinrich Boell Foundation and its Southeast Asia Program. Afterwards Dr. Pramual Pengchan - nationwide known for his walking tour from Chiang Mai to Ko Samui – presented the short film “Walking through Memories”. The documentary was produced by “Thailand’s Transportation Sector and Climate Change Project” (Social Research Institute/Chiang Mai University) and supported by Heinrich Boell Foundation. In the film Dr. Pramual, a former philosophy professor at Chiang Mai University, takes the audience on a personal and emotional journey through the city of Chiang Mai and highlights the radical change the city has undergone during the past decades. He compares the Chiang Mai of the past with today’s Chiang Mai. As a result of fast and unsustainable economic development, he sees it being confronted with a series of problems such as the enormous growth of motorized traffic, air pollution, the negative impacts of climate change etc. The film also deals with Mr. Pramual’s strong ties to the city of Chiang Mai where he lived for the most part of his life and underlines the significant role of each individual in the urban microcosm when it comes to creating a livable city.

After the movie screening Dr. Duongchan Apavatjrut Charoenmuang, senior researcher at the Chiang Mai University’s Social Research Institute and Secretary-General of the Urban Development Institute Foundation, gave a lecture on Chiang Mai’s transportation sector and air pollution & greenhouse gas emissions. At the beginning of her presentation Dr. Duongchan reported on the causes of Chiang Mai’s air pollution problem and its disastrous health impacts, with special regards to the transportation sector. Amongst many other facts she mentioned, that the number of patients at Maharaj Hospital who suffered from respiratory problems had tripled in 2009 compared to 2008. Especially worrying is the number of lung cancer patients which is higher than in Bangkok and increasing at an alarming rate. In addition, the air pollution, with peak values exceeding the maximum permissible value (sometimes several fold) in particular between January and April, has also a tremendous impact on the tourism sector, she said. After discussing the impacts of climate change on

Chiang Mai, Dr. Duongchan called for a new holistic, supply orientated and integrated approach to Chiang Mai’s transportation sector. The presentation was concluded with her vision of a compact city, based on a “Green city philosophy”: a city with a non-motorized transportation network and safe pedestrian walks, a city made for humans and not for cars.

The next speaker, Roland Haas of GTZ/ASEAN - German Technical Cooperation Programme, introduced the project “Clean Air for Smaller Cities in the ASEAN Region”, which he presented as an offer to Chiang Mai to tackle the issue of air pollution. According to Haas, Chiang Mai is already pre-selected as one of two cities in Thailand for this program. He emphasized that “smaller cities of today are the big cities with the big problems of tomorrow” and therefore “prevention is cheaper than repair”. The objective of the project is to set-up a road map towards a Clean Air Plan in the municipality of Chiang Mai. According to Haas, the philosophy behind the project is that not the GTZ but the local government has to do the plan, while the GTZ offers assistance and funds to implement the plan during a period of 3 to 4 years.

In order to show that the air pollution problem can be solved, Dr. Axel Friedrich (formerly working for the German Federal Environment Office/Umweltbundesamt) presented the success story of air pollution control in Germany. At the very beginning he stressed that a strong political will is necessary in order to reach this goal. Dr. Friedrich reminded the audience that fighting air pollution at the same time means fighting global warming, and every improvement in the transportation sector also helps the climate. Speaking about his experiences from Germany he presented a number of charts showing the dramatic reduction of different emissions from road transport since the 1970s. According to Dr. Friedrich, carbon monoxide for example had been reduced by more then 90 % and diesel particle emissions will be reduced in the next years to almost zero by using special filters for the exhaust. To fight air pollution effectively Mr. Friedrich proposed not only to reduce pollution, but to completely eliminate it. To achieve this goal one measure alone is not enough, but a wide range of different measures is necessary, he said. For instance pollution limits which are also effectively controlled, inspection and maintenance programs to control vehicles in use, financial incentives promoting earlier introduction of cleaner vehicles. To overcome political barriers Dr. Friedrich mentioned the importance of NGOs and public awareness campaigns. Finally he gave the example of Berlin where the individual motor car traffic could be reduced to 36 percent (in 2006) and the bicycle traffic increased to 11 percent through the extension of the bicycle infrastructure, improvement of public transport and the restriction of private car use. Last but not least Dr. Friedrich reminded the audience of their individual responsibility concerning individual transportation, with the statement: “You are all part of the problem but also part of the solution!”

After a short break the final official speaker on this evening was Dr. Rungsun Udomsri, Ass. Prof. at the Department of Civil Engineering (Transportation Research Unit) from Chiang Mai University, who talked about his Experiences and Opportunities to Promote a Public Transportation Concept in Chiang Mai. In the first part of his presentation Dr. Rungsun introduced a concept for sustainable transportation and elaborated on the relationship between transportation, energy and environment. Especially striking was the fact that in some provinces in Northern Thailand the transportation sector accounts for over 60% of the energy consumption,

highlighting the urgency to address this sector. In the second part Dr. Rungsun talked about the current transportation situation in Chiang Mai’s urban area i.e. the lack of efficient public transport system leading to traffic jams and a very low average travel speed in the inner city. The third part of his presentation made clear, that there had already been many attempts in the past to develop public transportation in Chiang Mai. But most of these plans got stuck in the planning stage. The latest attempt presented by Dr. Rungsun is the Mass Transit System Study of 2006-07. The study was aimed at creating a Mass Transit Master Plan including a feasibility study for the first 10 years and the proposal for a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) for Chiang Mai. The goal of the Master Plan - although not yet approved - is to increase the public transport share up to 30%, with a capacity of 500.000 person-trips a day and a network length of 100 km. According to Mr. Rungsun, the BRT would have 4 main routes and 60 bus stops with 90 buses in operation to ensure a reliable timetable. To illustrate this future vision of a public transport in Chiang Mai, Dr. Rungsun showed an inspiring computer animation of the BRT Chiang Mai prior to his presentation.

In the open discussion following the presentations the criticism on the new master plan as being “just another academic exercise” was dismissed by the attendant academics. Answering the question if Chiang Mai residents were really unhappy with the current red-minibus system (rot daeng), Dr. Duongchan and Dr. Rungsun confirmed that a public-opinion poll among 5.000 residents showed a clear request for a good public transportation system. Also motorcycle and car users expressed willingness to use public transport if available and affordable, they said. Nevertheless Dr. Friedrich remarked that surveys do not always precisely depict the real situation. He mentioned that the political will to restrict car use and motorcycle use is crucial, as public transport can not compete with cheap motorcycles in terms of costs. Therefore the public is needed to create pressure and to push for effective measures. Among other issues raised during the final debate, representatives from the bicycle club also argued that public transport and bicycling should go hand in hand and demanded the integration of cycling into a broader transportation concept as well as the extension of bicycle lanes in Chiang Mai.

Altogether the first lead-up event provided a comprehensive overview from various perspectives concerning the issue of air pollution and transportation in Chiang Mai. It also made evident the interrelations between the transport sector and global climate change. Fighting the air pollution in the city should top the agenda for the local authorities as it also helps to fight global warming, as Dr. Friedrich pointed out in his presentation. Fortunately it was shown that there are first positive steps in the right direction, even though substantial measures are still missing. The “Clean Air Offer” will be a chance for the city not only to create one more master plan but also to put it in practice. As also shown by the presentations, an affordable and non-monopolized public transportation system and much more non-motorized traffic should be parts of the solution. If public pressure is strong enough and participation is taken seriously, the authorities can be further encouraged in their political will to face the challenges that are at the very core of the problem. Chiang Mai can no longer afford to compromise the health of its residents and tourists, nor can it turn a blind eye to the already obvious climate change.

- Rainer Einzenberger

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Please see Post #222 above.

From time to time I have tried to post useful information for those interested in improving air quality in Chiang Mai. Relatively speaking, the air quality right now is wonderful, especially compared to what the region experiences in the period mid-February - early April.

If you are new to this problem and you want to learn more about it, then you can read more thoroughly. Most of the discussion focuses on seasonal air pollution caused by Chiang Mai's geography, weather and extensive man made agricultural fires. To search for threads, key wording phrases like "air quality," "smog," and "pollution" will turn up most. The topic of this thread, which reflects an alarmist newspaper headline of some months ago, is really misleading. I wish OP would get it changed. Nonetheless, this thread on the topic of air pollution seems to include much more useful information that most.

Here is further information about some efforts locally and some of those who are involved. It focuses on transportation pollution. If you want to follow through for more information or wish to participate, contact Rainer Einzenberger of the Heinrich Boell Foundation ( http://www.hbfasia.org/southeastasia/thailand/ ) and Dr. Duongchan Apavatjrut Charoenmuang, senior researcher at Chiang Mai University’s Social Research Institute and Secretary-General of the Urban Development Institute Foundation ( http://www.udif.or.th/indexE.htm )among others.

Air pollution and climate change: Chiang Mai’s potentials and challenges in the transportation sector. 1st lead up event towards HBF Chiang Mai’s 10th anniversary

In the 2009 hot season, Chiang Mai residents were once again plagued by smog, haze and intolerable high levels of air pollution. Although it became generally known in the meantime that the city’s air quality has been steadily deteriorating over the past ten ore more years, not much has changed. All too often, the big smoke clouds are explained with the burning of forests and waste by villagers in the rural areas. While this may be (partly) true, it is disregarding the contributions of Chiang Mai’s urban dwellers. It is overlooking that the transportation sector accounts for a major share of the air pollution in urban areas. Therefore the Heinrich Boell Foundation Chiang Mai decided to pick up the issue of Air pollution and climate change: Chiang Mai’s potentials and challenges in the transportation sector for its 1st lead up event towards HBF Chiang Mai’s 10th anniversary.

On 24th of June 2009 more than 40 people - among them academics, representatives from the local government, civil society and the private sector attended the bi-lingual English/Thai event, moderated and interpreted by Pipob Udomittipong, to discuss solutions to the problems in the city’s transport sector. The event was opened with a brief welcome address by Jana Mittag, director of the Chiang Mai office, followed by a short movie introducing the Heinrich Boell Foundation and its Southeast Asia Program. Afterwards Dr. Pramual Pengchan - nationwide known for his walking tour from Chiang Mai to Ko Samui – presented the short film “Walking through Memories”. The documentary was produced by “Thailand’s Transportation Sector and Climate Change Project” (Social Research Institute/Chiang Mai University) and supported by Heinrich Boell Foundation. In the film Dr. Pramual, a former philosophy professor at Chiang Mai University, takes the audience on a personal and emotional journey through the city of Chiang Mai and highlights the radical change the city has undergone during the past decades. He compares the Chiang Mai of the past with today’s Chiang Mai. As a result of fast and unsustainable economic development, he sees it being confronted with a series of problems such as the enormous growth of motorized traffic, air pollution, the negative impacts of climate change etc. The film also deals with Mr. Pramual’s strong ties to the city of Chiang Mai where he lived for the most part of his life and underlines the significant role of each individual in the urban microcosm when it comes to creating a livable city.

After the movie screening Dr. Duongchan Apavatjrut Charoenmuang, senior researcher at the Chiang Mai University’s Social Research Institute and Secretary-General of the Urban Development Institute Foundation, gave a lecture on Chiang Mai’s transportation sector and air pollution & greenhouse gas emissions. At the beginning of her presentation Dr. Duongchan reported on the causes of Chiang Mai’s air pollution problem and its disastrous health impacts, with special regards to the transportation sector. Amongst many other facts she mentioned, that the number of patients at Maharaj Hospital who suffered from respiratory problems had tripled in 2009 compared to 2008. Especially worrying is the number of lung cancer patients which is higher than in Bangkok and increasing at an alarming rate. In addition, the air pollution, with peak values exceeding the maximum permissible value (sometimes several fold) in particular between January and April, has also a tremendous impact on the tourism sector, she said. After discussing the impacts of climate change on

Chiang Mai, Dr. Duongchan called for a new holistic, supply orientated and integrated approach to Chiang Mai’s transportation sector. The presentation was concluded with her vision of a compact city, based on a “Green city philosophy”: a city with a non-motorized transportation network and safe pedestrian walks, a city made for humans and not for cars.

The next speaker, Roland Haas of GTZ/ASEAN - German Technical Cooperation Programme, introduced the project “Clean Air for Smaller Cities in the ASEAN Region”, which he presented as an offer to Chiang Mai to tackle the issue of air pollution. According to Haas, Chiang Mai is already pre-selected as one of two cities in Thailand for this program. He emphasized that “smaller cities of today are the big cities with the big problems of tomorrow” and therefore “prevention is cheaper than repair”. The objective of the project is to set-up a road map towards a Clean Air Plan in the municipality of Chiang Mai. According to Haas, the philosophy behind the project is that not the GTZ but the local government has to do the plan, while the GTZ offers assistance and funds to implement the plan during a period of 3 to 4 years.

In order to show that the air pollution problem can be solved, Dr. Axel Friedrich (formerly working for the German Federal Environment Office/Umweltbundesamt) presented the success story of air pollution control in Germany. At the very beginning he stressed that a strong political will is necessary in order to reach this goal. Dr. Friedrich reminded the audience that fighting air pollution at the same time means fighting global warming, and every improvement in the transportation sector also helps the climate. Speaking about his experiences from Germany he presented a number of charts showing the dramatic reduction of different emissions from road transport since the 1970s. According to Dr. Friedrich, carbon monoxide for example had been reduced by more then 90 % and diesel particle emissions will be reduced in the next years to almost zero by using special filters for the exhaust. To fight air pollution effectively Mr. Friedrich proposed not only to reduce pollution, but to completely eliminate it. To achieve this goal one measure alone is not enough, but a wide range of different measures is necessary, he said. For instance pollution limits which are also effectively controlled, inspection and maintenance programs to control vehicles in use, financial incentives promoting earlier introduction of cleaner vehicles. To overcome political barriers Dr. Friedrich mentioned the importance of NGOs and public awareness campaigns. Finally he gave the example of Berlin where the individual motor car traffic could be reduced to 36 percent (in 2006) and the bicycle traffic increased to 11 percent through the extension of the bicycle infrastructure, improvement of public transport and the restriction of private car use. Last but not least Dr. Friedrich reminded the audience of their individual responsibility concerning individual transportation, with the statement: “You are all part of the problem but also part of the solution!”

After a short break the final official speaker on this evening was Dr. Rungsun Udomsri, Ass. Prof. at the Department of Civil Engineering (Transportation Research Unit) from Chiang Mai University, who talked about his Experiences and Opportunities to Promote a Public Transportation Concept in Chiang Mai. In the first part of his presentation Dr. Rungsun introduced a concept for sustainable transportation and elaborated on the relationship between transportation, energy and environment. Especially striking was the fact that in some provinces in Northern Thailand the transportation sector accounts for over 60% of the energy consumption,

highlighting the urgency to address this sector. In the second part Dr. Rungsun talked about the current transportation situation in Chiang Mai’s urban area i.e. the lack of efficient public transport system leading to traffic jams and a very low average travel speed in the inner city. The third part of his presentation made clear, that there had already been many attempts in the past to develop public transportation in Chiang Mai. But most of these plans got stuck in the planning stage. The latest attempt presented by Dr. Rungsun is the Mass Transit System Study of 2006-07. The study was aimed at creating a Mass Transit Master Plan including a feasibility study for the first 10 years and the proposal for a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) for Chiang Mai. The goal of the Master Plan - although not yet approved - is to increase the public transport share up to 30%, with a capacity of 500.000 person-trips a day and a network length of 100 km. According to Mr. Rungsun, the BRT would have 4 main routes and 60 bus stops with 90 buses in operation to ensure a reliable timetable. To illustrate this future vision of a public transport in Chiang Mai, Dr. Rungsun showed an inspiring computer animation of the BRT Chiang Mai prior to his presentation.

In the open discussion following the presentations the criticism on the new master plan as being “just another academic exercise” was dismissed by the attendant academics. Answering the question if Chiang Mai residents were really unhappy with the current red-minibus system (rot daeng), Dr. Duongchan and Dr. Rungsun confirmed that a public-opinion poll among 5.000 residents showed a clear request for a good public transportation system. Also motorcycle and car users expressed willingness to use public transport if available and affordable, they said. Nevertheless Dr. Friedrich remarked that surveys do not always precisely depict the real situation. He mentioned that the political will to restrict car use and motorcycle use is crucial, as public transport can not compete with cheap motorcycles in terms of costs. Therefore the public is needed to create pressure and to push for effective measures. Among other issues raised during the final debate, representatives from the bicycle club also argued that public transport and bicycling should go hand in hand and demanded the integration of cycling into a broader transportation concept as well as the extension of bicycle lanes in Chiang Mai.

Altogether the first lead-up event provided a comprehensive overview from various perspectives concerning the issue of air pollution and transportation in Chiang Mai. It also made evident the interrelations between the transport sector and global climate change. Fighting the air pollution in the city should top the agenda for the local authorities as it also helps to fight global warming, as Dr. Friedrich pointed out in his presentation. Fortunately it was shown that there are first positive steps in the right direction, even though substantial measures are still missing. The “Clean Air Offer” will be a chance for the city not only to create one more master plan but also to put it in practice. As also shown by the presentations, an affordable and non-monopolized public transportation system and much more non-motorized traffic should be parts of the solution. If public pressure is strong enough and participation is taken seriously, the authorities can be further encouraged in their political will to face the challenges that are at the very core of the problem. Chiang Mai can no longer afford to compromise the health of its residents and tourists, nor can it turn a blind eye to the already obvious climate change.

- Rainer Einzenberger

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