Online drive aims to fight Chiang Mai’s haze problem

national January 22, 2017 01:00

By THE SUNDAY NATION

THE WARM HEART Foundation is seeking donations for a Bt1-million project to eliminate 9,640 kilograms of smoke from the air over Chiang Mai during the agriculture fire season.



The “Stop the Smoke!” campaign is the first step in the foundation’s five-year plan to eliminate 50 per cent of the smoke. It is also challenging Chiang Mai communities to do their part in eliminating the remaining 50 per cent. 

The project will remove the equivalent of smoke from 688.6 million cigarettes. 

Dr Michael Shafer, the foundation’s director, said that though the campaign will remove “just a puff of smoke from our air, it is a first concrete step in the right direction”. 

The campaign will run at www.crowdrise. com/stop-thesmoke/fundraiser/warmheartworldwidein, from today and all donations can be made via the website. 

Funds raised in the campaign will be used to buy biochar from farmers in Mae Chaem district to use as fertiliser. These farmers normally burn 95,000 tonnes of corn crop waste and generate 594,700kg of smoke. Producing 1 tonne of biochar requires 5 tonnes of corn waste and prevents 31.3kg of smoke. 

Public health hazard

Biochar is charcoal produced from plant matter and stored in the soil as a means of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The annual agricultural fires are a public health hazard and a financial disaster for the North, the foundation said. Every year 3,500 people die from smoke-related problems and 18,000 end up in hospital, according to the foundation. 

Annual healthcare costs exceed Bt332.5 million, the tourism industry loses about Bt5 billion annually and tens of thousands lose their jobs. Previous mobilisation of the Army, police and public administration has failed to get rid of the haze.

 

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