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A Smoke Crisis in Northern Thailand

Jittrapon Kaicome | Thailand

A firefighter hikes through a forest fire, to prevent its further spread during the night time by making a firebreak. 99% of all wildfires are caused by humans. Chiang Mai, Thailand.

In Northern Thailand the general population has faced a smoke crisis causing unhealthy air for more than a decade, generally starting from February and lasting well into April. Growing population numbers combined with climate change contribute to aggravating this situation. It’s getting worse year by year and has now become commonplace.

In March 2019, Chiang Mai was struck by its worst smoke crisis to date, ranking it continuously as the world’s most polluted city; with readings from the AirVisual website reaching up to 520 US AQI on March 30. This rise in PM2.5 - Particulate Matter small enough to penetrate deeply into the lungs - creates major health risks.

The major causes of this haze are man-made forest fires - in order to increase harvestable surface and stimulate the growth of rare, expensive mushrooms - and the ‘slash and burn’ crop-rotation systems used on the mountain slopes to clear land for new plantations, mainly growing corn for the livestock industry. Both of these practices will inevitably increase in the near future due to an ever-growing market demand for these products.

In Northern Thailand, people have been facing with a smoke crisis causing unhealthy air for more than a decade. I wanted to raise awareness about this issue which occurred in my hometown to a wider audience.

Email: jk.kaicome@gmail.com

Website: www.jittraponkaicome.com

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