Thailand — The air pollution crisis which now sees the entire north of Thailand engulfed in toxic smoke as reported in The Nation on 21st March and with various updates at ChiangMaiCityNews.com shows how poorly thought out is the government campaign of 90 days of no burning.
The government was urged in May last year by Our Chiang Mai to launch a nation-wide program against burning to start with a July announcement by the Prime Minister that burning must cease by October.
We called for a special effort to assist farmers including sending vacation students to the cool of the hills to help fire free preparation of fields for crops.
In the event the government, to its credit did take action, but too little by only restricting burning in the north while unchecked fire in places such as Nakhon Sawan led to dangerous pollution levels there, and also too late.
A major change in behavior takes time, just as extinguishing a major wildfire does. The plea of the Breathe Campaign went unheeded and it was not until after the National Health Commission reported in December that the government acted.
The recommendation from the Chiang Mai consultation of the Health Commission that the Prime Minister, or Deputy PM personally direct a no burning campaign was adopted by the government and Deputy PM Plodprasop is in charge.
However the suggestion to send students to the countryside has not been adopted. Surely having tens of thousands of young people camping in the hills with the farmers would have made a far greater impact on the psyche of the nation than exhortations and orders from officialdom?
With the failure of this years No Burning Campaign we now see that there is no back-up plan. We adults have failed our children. So what can now be done?
In war time Britain with the Nazi blitz bombing of Englands cities saving the children was top priority. The solution was not to hide them in cellars like is being suggested as we are advised to keep children indoors so they cannot run and play. The children of Britain were sent to the freedom of the countryside.
Chiang Mai can do the same. While the PM10 reading downtown was over 200 ppb, at the Phuphing Palace on Doi Suthep the air was clean at 42 ppb according to ChiangMaiCityNews.com. So please ask the King to open the palace gates and welcome children to camp in the grounds and the staff accommodation buildings. And perhaps the hills villagers of Nan and Mae Hong Son can also welcome children as we proposed ten months ago?