Haze summit aims to clear the air

Haze summit aims to clear the air

21 March 2010

published by www.bangkokpost.com

Thailand —  Thailand will hold talks with Burma and Laos this month to solve the lingering haze problem, according to Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti.

The haze, believed to be caused by forest fires including those occurring in neighbouring countries, must be tackled by trans-border cooperation, said the minister.

Mr Suwit took an aerial view of forests in Chiang Mai’s Samoeng, Omkoi, and Mae Rim districts by helicopter yesterday.

Bush fires were spotted in scattered areas in Chiang Mai and in forests of adjacent provinces.

“The situation is still worrying, especially forest fires in neighbouring countries,” Mr Suwit said, adding that pollution caused by the haze was still beyond an acceptable standard.

His ministry is to discuss the problem with Burma and Laos on March 29, and ask for their help in reducing the haze which has posed a health threat to residents in many upper northern provinces.

Mr Suwit added his ministry would send a pollution monitoring vehicle to check air quality in the Burmese border town of Tachilek, opposite Mae Sai district in Chiang Rai.

More forest fire “hot spots” had been found in neighbouring countries than in Thailand, said Jatuporn Burusaphat, chief of the Department of National Park, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation.

Mr Suwit also discussed the haze problem with governors of eight northern provinces. Villagers suspected of encroaching on forest areas have resorted to slash-and-burn farming to expand their farmland.

Forestry officials are checking the encroachment problem which is believed to have reduced the size of protected forests.

Chiang Mai governor Amornphan Nimanant admitted that forest fires in Chiang Mai had spread more rapidly than forest fires which broke out during the same period last year.

However, recent rainfall had helped offset the haze problem.

Haze has blanketed the province in the past seven days, prompting local authorities to issue health warnings to residents.

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