Environment Ministry responds to deforestation claim

Environment Ministry responds to deforestation claim

March 28, 2019

Khuon Narim / Khmer Times


Environment Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra yesterday responded to public criticism blaming deforestation as the major factor for high temperatures in the Kingdom.

In response, Mr. Pheaktra said high temperatures are caused by climate change and are also affecting other parts of the world.

“Global warming is caused by greenhouse gases and pollution,” he said. “Please do not think that it is only caused by deforestation because the earth’s temperature can increase due to development in our cities. There are many factors contributing to climate change that should be considered.”

“The Environment Ministry has told other institutions to tell people to save water during the dry season because many sources are drying fast,” Mr. Pheaktra added. “We called on the public to join together to prevent forest fires. We also cooperated with communities by instructing them not to burn rubbish, which contributes to climate change.”

When asked about forest fires, Mr. Pheaktra said when compared to neighboring countries in the region, Cambodia has had 20, noting that Thailand has 100 hotspots, and Laos and Myanmar have 200.

“There has been no report of property damage from forest fires,” he said. “Some farmlands were damaged from forest fires.”

Health Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandin said the ministry has yet to receive any reports regarding the impact of the heat on the health of citizens.

“We have seen some health effects but that was because the patients were not practising good hygiene,” Ms. Vandin said. “For example rashes, rashes are not caused by the weather. Rashes happen because of a lack of hygiene.”

Government spokesman Phay Siphan yesterday said Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered officials to dig wells and transport water to areas severely hit by shortages of water.

“We can control the situation. The heat has not caused an emergency,” Mr. Siphan said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of farmers in Battambang province’s Banan district are battling drought as their crops wither away.

Has Sarath, a 63-year-old farmer, recently told Khmer Times that times are tough.

“There is a serious shortage of water this year, there has been no rain since the end of October,” Mr. Sarath said. “This pond is almost dry and the water is not enough to sustain villagers because of the extremely hot weather.”

“Because of this, one hectare of crops cannot even yield one sack of rice,” he added.

According to a forecast by the Water Resources and Meteorology Ministry on March 12, temperatures in the Kingdom is expected to increase to up to 42 degrees Celsius in May.

“In April and May, the weather will be extremely hot, and sometimes it will reach 40-42 degrees Celsius, especially in the northwestern low lands and the northern plains,” the ministry said.

Link: https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50590952/environment-ministry-responds-to-deforestation-claim/


Officials risking public health by playing down smog

Officials risking public health by playing down smog

national March 28, 2019


After Chiang Mai and several other provinces in the North faced dangerous levels of PM2.5 for three weeks in a row, provincial Governor Supachai Iamsuwan yesterday promised to implement haze mitigation measures suggested by agencies, academics, and the public sector. He also ordered the creation of safety zones in every district of the province to provide temporary shelters for vulnerable groups.

Supachai said the first safety zone would be established at Chiang Mai International Exhibition and Convention Centre, which can accommodate up to 1,000 people. An air purifying system is being installed, while more safety zones will be designated in all 25 districts of the province.

However, Dr. Rungsrit Kanjanavanit, a medical lecturer at Chiang Mai University, lamented that despite added measures to mitigate air pollution, these efforts were neither strong enough to properly protect the health of local citizens in the North, nor would they solve the smog problem in the long run.

“It is a good start in terms of efforts to mitigate the seasonal smog crisis in the North. The Chiang Mai Provincial Authority has shown its intention to work with all stakeholders and accepted suggestions from academics and the public sector on solutions to relieve the smog situation and protect people’s health,” Rungsrit said.

 “But considering the seriousness of the current situation and the length of time citizens in the North are being exposed to toxic air, the authorities’ response is grossly insufficient and also too late to deal with the problem at hand.”
According to the PM2.5 daily average level database at the Pollution Control Department (PCD), the northern region has been suffering from dangerous PM2.5 levels for nearly a month. The annual smog season has already descended on the North with the hot and arid weather of summer, while Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai are among the hardest hit provinces by the smog.

In Chiang Mai, PCD’s air quality monitoring system showed the city is choking on seriously harmful levels of PM2.5. The PM2.5 daily average in the city has remained above 100 micrograms per cubic meter of air for six days in a row, peaking at 282 micrograms last Friday.

The situation is even worse in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district, where the PM2.5 level has not dropped below 100 micrograms since March 13.

According to Thailand’s air quality safety standard, a daily average level of PM2.5 higher than 50 micrograms is considered harmful to health, though the international safe limit for PM2.5 is 25 micrograms.

Rungsrit stressed that the serious PM2.5 crisis in the northern provinces had left local people, especially groups sensitive to air pollution and poor people in rural areas, facing a grave threat to health. Prolonged exposure to PM2.5 can lead to serious diseases such as asthma, stroke, or even cancer.

“The authorities are risking many people’s lives with their delays and ineffectiveness in taking action against smog. In order to protect the image of the city, they are playing down the situation instead of prioritizing the health and well-being of the people,” he said.

“The authorities need to change this poor habit and alert the people about the threat to their lives by informing the public with real-time air quality measurement and educating people about the effects of air pollution.” He added that the governor’s plan to establish air pollution refuge centers in Chiang Mai was a step forward to protect those who cannot afford air purifiers. However, he insisted that this is just a short-term measure and both local authorities and central government must prioritize sustainably tackling the seasonal smog problem by working with all related stakeholders and governments of neighboring countries.

Link: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/national/30366673