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The Burning Season

My mountainside today

My mountainside on a clear day.

Dear Editor,
I read your article and it is good to know the Governor is committed. I won’t ‘report’ but I will give some observations, comments and images.
We who live here know of this perennial issue and it has not improved over the years. I am aware of the ‘bigger picture’ involving cross-border practices but, because we are here I am only now referring to ‘my’ little part of Thailand.
Every day of the week I see local farmers and land owners burning ‘rubbish’, most of which could and should be returned to the soil. I am aware that Hilltribe folk actually have designated months on their calendar as ‘burning season’. So the need to burn is a deep-rooted cultural thing.
I have a theory that it’s also a ‘power trip’ thing; one which arsonists get their kicks from.
I walk around this area every afternoon and always see domestic burning of ‘rubbish’. This mostly includes leaf ‘litter’, foliage, plastic and rubber. There is absolutely no consideration for what effect the result of their burning desire has on other residents. If they want to do it they do it. Signs forbidding the activity are nothing but window dressing and an opportunity for authorities to say ‘we are doing something about the problem’. Burning activity in rural areas seems to be the main source of the problem and a large percentage of that problem is from deliberate and consistent burning.
It would seem that 4 main bodies could and should do something to combat the source of the problem.
a) Rural Municipal officers at the Tambon level must be much more active.
b) Rural Pooyai Bahn (Village Heads) should be more active.
c) Rural police at the village and district level must be more active.
d) Temple Abbots at the village level should be involved.
I do not see any of the 4 above happening. I do not see law enforcement of this offence. I do not see any authority at the Village level actually enforcing the anti-burning laws that already exist nor do I believe they would do so because it would be regarded as a vote-losing or unpopular thing to do.
I would hope that school children are learning about the dangers of this ‘burning desire’ that exists in rural Thailand. Having said that, the same kids are aware of the need to wear helmets whilst (illegally) riding their motorbikes to school! So I can’t see any hope of the problem diminishing with the next generation.
As I write this I am inhaling smoke from fires and I am literally sick of it (as are many thousands). As with noise, smoke does not seem to be such a problem with my Thai friends as it is with Farang, so they all think I/we are just a bunch of habitual complainers. They have learnt to live with it.
AND THAT MAY BE THE PROBLEM. i.e. IT IS NOT SEEN TO BE A PROBLEM.
If the good Governor is truly committed to addressing this issue I would suggest that he gets out into the rural areas to see for himself. Not with the massive convoy that he normally travels with; incognito and unannounced if that is possible!
Anyway, attached are two images; one shows what ‘my’ mountain range looked like this morning. The other shows what it should look like.
Signed
Burning Desire


Praise for the cycling recyclers

Dear Editor,
For many years here I have felt that some of the poorest of the poor of Chiang Mai set the best examples for the rest of us.
In particular I am filled with admiration for the ‘re-cyclers’ who go around collecting waste of all kinds to exchange for tiny amounts of cash, here and there.
Some have trailers behind battered motorcycles, some peddle what once were ‘samlors’ but are now converted into man-powered pick-ups, but the really poor simply pull or push 2 wheeled carts.
On February 21st one of the latter, piled high with cardboard, glass and plastic and pushed by a thin middle-aged man, stopped at the north end of Thapae Gate, opposite Darets Guesthouse and Restaurant.
The man took a plastic bag from his cart, crossed to the moat and proceeded to throw many large pieces of bread to the grateful fish. A man with so few worldly possessions, yet caring so much!
He also cared for his environment to the extent that when the bag was empty, he folded it neatly and put it into one of the waste bins provided! Because as his cart showed, his own plastic speciality was the thick, brittle stuff, not the thin supermarket bags.
Then it was back to his cart, a big and painful looking push, and off he went.
I think people like this deserve Municipal Medals! What do you think, Mr. Mayor?
Bill Sykes


Air quality report

Dear Editor
In regards to the air quality report in the last issue, thank you for giving us links to websites that offer the pollution levels. Today I noticed there was a brown cloud between me and Doi Suthep. I could still see the temple on the mountain but the haze was clearly visible.
This tells me that the PM10 levels are rising in Chiang Mai although apparently Lampang has been bad for a while. I remember once driving through Lampang a few years ago and it was far worse than Chiang Mai. Of course, the fields were full of smoke and fire and the farmers were burning merrily away despite the fact visibility was down to a few hundred metres at best. I was looking at one of the sites, the aqmthai site, and it said Phrae was already bad as was Nan and Lampang the worst. Interestingly Khon Kaen has pretty bad air and of course, Bangkok which there is no surprise there.
Someone I know didn’t like the data he saw on the Chiang Mai numbers and decided they were fudging the numbers but honestly if they are going to show Lampang as being as bad as it is why lie about Chiang Mai? Sometimes the tin foil hat brigade gets a bit annoying, I must admit.
Anyway, the numbers are climbing, the haze is starting to show, but it feels later this year. Let’s all hope it rains and let’s all hope that the government has the political will to actually really ensure the fires don’t get out of hand. Police need real teeth to fine and arrest people who burn. The government needs to come to the realization that it cannot always be popular and occasionally needs to really enforce the laws. Let’s hope our new governor is that man.
However, I am still looking at a visit to a beach with clean air this month as I’ve been hearing these promises for years.
Signed
Leaving on holiday soon


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

The Burning Season

Praise for the cycling recyclers

Air quality report

Note: Letters printed herein in no way reflect the opinions of the editors or writers for Chiang Mai Mail, but are unsolicited letters from our readers, expressing their own opinions. No anonymous letters or those without genuine addresses are printed, and, whilst we do not object to the use of a nom de plume, preference will be given to those signed.
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