ASEAN countries will collaborate to tame the seasonal haze problem, while the Pollution Control Department has launched field operations to spread awareness that people should not burn |anything during this year’s dry |season.
“Around late February, there will be a meeting of Asean countries’ executives to designate the roadmap for tackling the haze problem at the regional level,” Wichan Simachaya, director-general of the PCD, said last week.
“Thailand also has a plan to sponsor haze control efforts in neighbouring countries.
“For example, we’re supporting the installation of air pollution measurement equipment in Laos this year and we have a plan to do the same thing in Myanmar and Cambodia, which still lack proper devices to warn their citizens,” he said.
The haze season in the North usually runs from late this month till mid-April.
Another important effort to achieve a haze-free Asean by 2020, as per the Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, was to prevent burning in the first |place.
“We have to be an icon for other countries to follow. This year the PCD has sent officials to areas with a record of frequent burning, to tell the locals not to burn anything in the dry season.
“This is our new move this year to control the haze crisis, as in past years we just sent officers to put out the fires,” Wichan said.
“The operation began last Friday and will continue throughout the haze season.”
To pinpoint the areas of highest risk, the department draws on satellite data of hot spots in the past from the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency, he said.
Last week, Chiang Mai Governor Pawin Chamnisart launched a campaign in Samoeng district with the goal to decrease ‘hot spots’ in the area by at least 20 per cent this year and keep air pollution below the safe limit in the 20 weeks from last month to April.
The northern province has joined with Charoen Pokphand Produce to squash the haze problem sustainably by providing funds and assistance to three pioneer districts, to train farmers growing maize to improve their planting system to avoid field burning.
Village funds to prevent problems
“Authorities are closely monitoring burning activities and will arrest anyone breaking the burning ban. There will also be Bt10,000 per village fund to prevent the wildfire and haze problem,” he said.
Lt General Somsak Ninbanjerdkul, commander of the First Army Area, said he has two main operations to tackle the haze – fire-fighting teams and a campaign to prevent bushfires.
“February 15 to April 15 is the 60 days of the burning ban. It will be strictly enforced and everyone who violates the ban will be arrested and fined,” he said.
“Despite the severe drought conditions this year, considering the preparedness of the haze control effort, I think we can minimise the haze better than previous years,” he said.