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Haze and Smog in Chiang Mai

Unless you've been stuck in the cave for the past week you would have noticed the smog and haze that is hanging over Chiang Mai and many cities in the north of Thailand. It looks really bad but I really haven't noticed any health issues personally from the haze. It looks pretty bad though and hard to see the mountain which i live literally underneath.

Haze and Smog in Chiang Mai

So by now you've seen or are living in the smog and if your in Thailand you've been hearing about it. But what everyone is not talking about is the real reason their are fires that are causing the haze and pollution at least I havn't read a publication that is really talking about it.

At first I thought I read somewhere that the fires were caused by people burning off their rice fields in order to replant it again. Since a lot of Northern Thailand is extremely dry right now not having had any rain for months I can understand how it seems an easy way to clear the land before the rains start coming back in a month or so. But when I asked a friend to drive me around the day looking for the fires I didn't see anyone burning off any rice fields is that what it really is?

So we head off the the Mae Ngat Dam in Chiang Mai for a swim and a some food and while sitting on the boat I could really see the smoke it was really heavy. The smoke seemed to be coming of the mountains and on a closer look I could see fire, in fact all the hills surrounding me were on fire.

There was a chap there eating lunch with us who was the ranger of the park. I was told that he gets paid to keep the people away who are burning the fields, he gets a rifle and is licensed to shoot those who start the fires. While he is sitting there eating lunch with us the fires are raging along in the hills and nothing seems to be getting done..hmmm. Case of bribery perhaps?

So I asked why on earth would you start these small brush fires in the forest what possible gain could you get from doing that? Apparently what happens is the ash that falls after the burning ends helps feed mushrooms. I can't remember what kind of mushroom but apparently you get a lot of money for mushrooms. Burning the forests produces tonnes of mushrooms that makes whoever get's them a lot of money. The people burning the forests are most likely not Thai but it makes you wonder if their isn't a Thai involved.

Whoever it is and it's probably a whole bunch of different mushroom gangs burning the forest it's just plain criminal. We have to suffer from extremely bad quality air because of these greedy thieves who think they can do whatever they want.

Since most of the burning is occurring in Thailand's National Parks hefty fines and jail time awaits those that are getting caught. But I've yet to see people being paraded in front of the cameras for starting fires in the National Park have you? In my mind this is more criminal than those getting busted with drugs. Destroying natural resources is a global crime that just isn't affecting the people living in Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand but the entire world.


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About Chris

Chris founded LivingThai.org in 2011 and has received over 3 million visitors. He has lived here for over 10 years and speaks reads and writes very good Thai.

9 Responses to Haze and Smog in Chiang Mai

  1. wrevelater February 26, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    this is terrible. i was here baout 5 years ago, my first time in thailand, and i had heard a lot of great things about chiang mai. so i planned to stay a full week of my three week thailand trip in chiang mai. it was about this time of year, too. so i made the bus trip up there and it was hot and humid and the entire sky was covered in ash. i was perplexed as to what this was, so i started asking a few people here and there, like our driver or whatever, and couldnt get a straight answer and sometimes wouldnt get an answer at all. it seemed they didnt know or didnt care i dont know which one. i m not exactly an out going guy, so i started to feel a bit strange asking people this question,. and needless to say, i left a week later, and still didnt know what the god damn ash covering the bloody sky was. i tell you one thing though, if that was going on in my country, i wouldnt stand for it, simple as that. what a shame that this is allowed to happen here. and not to mention, this is happening while the king is wisely and correctly calling for more trees in thailand to prevent floods. one word that sums that up for me is frustrating. and oddly enough, there is not an easy ,direct translation for the word frustrating in thai….hmmm wonder why….? could it be because apathy is a more common solution to a problem?

  2. Brian February 29, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    Chris those fires are started by the Gov. fire dept to burn off the underbrush . If you notice in your pictures the trees aren’t burning . By doing this the keep the forest from burning down . My buddy works for the Gov. doing this and he works about 3 months a year .

    • Chris February 29, 2012 at 10:30 am #

      From what I know the forest department only has 30+ fire staff and most work part time. Believe me that’s not enough people to start all those fires and have a controlled burning, what do you think?
      Like I always say I’m not a journalist I just tell you what I hear from the horses mouth (in this case the guy who is hired to shoot the people who start the fires!).
      Take a look at this article from a real journalist and they concur with what I’m saying.

      • Brian February 29, 2012 at 10:36 am #

        Were the trees burning ? No . My friend works with over 300 people and that’s just one group . We use to do in the states and our forest never burned down . Now they burn to the ground .

        • Chris February 29, 2012 at 10:43 am #

          No the trees arn’t burning but I never said that they were. Nor am I saying controlled backburning doesn’t take place here either. I’m just saying that the majority of the fires are started by people who want to farm mushrooms out of the forest.

        • Peter Mare March 31, 2012 at 11:46 am #

          I am told by Thais that what the article is describing is indeed what is happening. Unless the price of mushroom goes down dramatically or they can grow something else that is just as lucrative, I don’t see them stopping, considering they know they will go to “paradise” if they do good in their lives.

  3. Lai Thai Photo Blog March 3, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

    Do you see a sign of the left corner in the photo above, it’s means
    “if you are burning, you are destroying the country”

  4. wrevelater March 11, 2012 at 2:41 am #

    i agree with you CHris 100 %. surely it is the farmers.
    they do it to get a little bit more money, a little bit quicker.
    they dont think about the bigger picture. they just want the money.
    and thais dont have their shit together enough to do anything to stop from them doing it.

    plain and simple ( and outrageously stupid)

  5. Peter Mare March 31, 2012 at 11:48 am #

    Not sure if killing indirectly hundreds or thousands of people in the long run will lead them to paradise (ahahaha), but maybe the monks can explain that bit to them! 🙂

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