Blaze destroys 500 hectares of rubber plantation

Blaze destroys 500 hectares of rubber plantation

April 1, 2019

Sen David / Khmer Times

More than 500 hectares of a rubber plantation on Saturday were destroyed in a blaze that spread from a forest fire in Kampong Thom province’s Santuk district.

According to a National Police report yesterday, the forest blaze spread to 530 hectares of the rubber plantation in Ti Por commune.

“Authorities used seven fire trucks to extinguish it and 530 hectares out of 800 hectares of the plantation were destroyed,” it said. “The blaze spread from a nearby forest.”

Thiv Van Thy, provincial Agriculture Department director, yesterday said the rubber plantation belongs to Korean company BNA.

“The company invested in the rubber plantation in that area and 530 hectares of it have been destroyed,” he said.

Neth Pheaktra, spokesman of the Ministry of Environment, yesterday said Cambodia is now suffering from the El Nino weather phenomenon which is causing a hot and dry spell, noting that rains are not forecast for another two months.

He said wildfires, due to human and natural factors, can easily occur because of the hot and dry conditions.

“The main cause of fires is through burning to clear forests for planting crops, resettlement or catching wildlife,” he said.

In January, the ministry issued a forest fire alert over the dry season. It said people must be careful not to burn waste in or around protected forests and local authorities must also prepare contingency plans to fight forest fires to prevent the flames from spreading.

The ministry said that in case of a serious forest fire, the authorities should immediately alert people living nearby and evacuate animals.

“After a forest fire, the authorities must also collaborate with relevant sub-national administrations to prohibit people from inhabiting the cleared areas to allow for regrowth,” it added.

The ministry also reminded people that it is an offense to intentionally cause a fire in a protected area and those caught will be punished according to the law.

It added that it is confident that the public and relevant authorities will heed its warning.

Link: https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50592049/blaze-destroys-500-hectares-of-rubber-plantation/

Clamour grows for Upper North to be declared ‘smog disaster zone’ as forest fire hot spots top 3,000

Clamour grows for Upper North to be declared ‘smog disaster zone’ as forest fire hot spots top 3,000

By Sakaorat Sirima
The Nation

Calls for the Upper North to be declared a smog disaster zone became louder on Monday, as the haze crisis persisted and the region’s smog-generating forest fires soared to 3,088 hot spots.

Choking in particulate dust, many provinces have now called for urgent donations of N95-grade face masks for public distribution, while schools have installed air-purifiers or even suspended classes for students’ safety.

As some forest fires were reportedly caused by poachers lighting them in their search for puffball mushrooms, Chiang Mai supermarket franchise Rimping confirmed it would no longer sell canned Thai puffball mushrooms until it could be proved that such products were not, in fact, causing forest fires and haze.

Mae Hong Son Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, is also campaigning against the selling and buying of such mushroom and forest products reportedly obtained by the lighting of forest fires.

The Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency’s fire-monitoring system cited a satellite image as of 2 am on Monday showing that there were 3,088 hot spots across nine northern provinces.

Mae Hong Son led the pack with 981 hot spots, followed by Chiang Mai (615), Chiang Rai (370), Lampang (302), Nan (219), Phrae (214), Tak (211), Phayao (116) and Lamphun (60).

In tackling multiple forest fires, the Third Army Region’s front command at Chiang Mai’s Kawila Camp coordinated with provincial authorities in an effort to put out the blazes.

The forest-fire situation was particularly bad in Chiang Mai’s Chiang Dao district, with Prakasit Rawiwan, head of Chiang Dao wildlife sanctuary, saying that things had worsened in the past two days.

Multiple spots on Doi Luang Chiang Dao were on fire, with the conflagrations so far having ravaged 100 rai (16 hectares) of forestland, he said.

However, officials have managed to put out two major fires in the Chiang Dao Cave and Pha Bong Cave areas.

Officials were continuing the fire-fighting mission day and night and now had the use a helicopter from the Natural Resource and Environment Ministry to back them up, while other teams were building firebreaks, Prakasit said, expecting the fires inaccessible areas to be under control soon.

Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son on Monday continued their calls for urgent donations of the N95-grade face masks for public distribution.

As Chiang Mai academics urged people to refrain from all outdoor activities and to wear N95-grade masks during this period, several private schools such as Montfort College and Prince Royal’s College installed air-purifiers in classrooms and campaigned for kids to wear the N95-grade masks.

Chiang Rai’s Mae Fah Luang University, meanwhile, suspended classes and all outdoor activities on Monday and Tuesday this week, while spraying water around the campus and opening two conference halls at the E4 multipurpose building as air-purifier-equipped “clean rooms” for students and personnel to seek refuge.

In terms of PM2.5 pollution – airborne particulates 2.5 microns or less in diameter – the Pollution Control Department reported at 9 am on Monday that the levels in nine northern provinces ranged from 44-267 micrograms (mcg) per cubic meter of air.

The Thai safe limit of PM2.5 is 50 mcg.

Worst off were Tambon Wiang Phang Kham in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district (267mcg) and Wiang in the province’s Mueang district (188mcg), while Tambon Jong Kham in Mae Hong Son’s Mueang district cited 201mcg, and Chang Pheuk in Mueang Chiang Mai had 129mcg.

Link: https://news.thaivisa.com/article/33631/clamour-grows-for-upper-north-to-be-declared-smog-disaster-zone-as-forest-fire-hot-spots-top-3000

Regional Fire Management Resource Center South East Asia (RFMRC-SEA) Meeting, Bogor, 7 June 2018

Regional Fire Management Resource Center South East Asia (RFMRC-SEA) Meeting, Bogor, 7 June 2018

By: Bambang Hero Saharjo

The second-day activities of Round Table Meeting and Consultation “Enhancing Regional Cooperation on Fire Management in South East Asia”, is visiting The Regional Fire Management Resource Center South East Asia (RFMRC-SEA) located at the Faculty of Forestry, Campus IPB, Drmaga, Bogor on June 7st. 2018.

All participants were the resource persons on the first day June 6st, 2018 originating from ASEAN countries present, namely: Prof. Dr. Ahmad A. Din, Professor for Microclimatology and Forest Fire, Faculty of Forestry University Putra Malaysia; Dr. Prayoonyong Nhuchaiya, the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, Thailand; Dr. Veerachai Tanpipat, Wildland Fire Special Research Unit (WFSRU), Thailand; Dr. Kobsak Wanthongchai, Department of Silviculture, Faculty of Forestry, Kasetsart University, Thailand; Prof. Dr. Bambang Hero Saharjo, Faculty of Forestry, Bogor Agricultural University (IPB), Indonesia; Dr. Nguyen Thi Thuy, MSc, Researcher, Silviculture Research Institute, Vietnamese Academy of Forest Science (VAFS), Vietnam; accompanied by Prof. Dr. Johann G. Goldammer, Executive Director GFMC; officers and staff of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MoEF), and Dr. Christian Staiss of FORCLIME-GIZ, from IPB apart from staff RFMRC-SEA also present Prof. Dr. Iskandar Z. Siregar, Director of ICO-IPB.

Air pollution reducing lifespans in south-east Asia

Air pollution reducing lifespans in south-east Asia

AP
Published: Mar 29, 2019, 4:08 pm IST
Updated : Mar 29, 2019, 4:08 pm IST
Worsening air pollution reducing lifespans in Indonesia, which has lesser air pollution as compared to countries like India, Bangladesh, and China.

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

By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
THE NATION

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

Integrated Training and Education in Forest and Land Fires Phase I, 2019 Year Office of RFMRC – SEA and Laboratory Forest and Land Fires Dept of Silviculture, 13 March 2019

The Integrated Training and Education in Forest and Land Phase II held by the Indonesian Republican…

Twelve named suspects as helicopters fight raging flames in Riau

Twelve named suspects as helicopters fight raging flames in Riau

PUBLISHED MAR 26, 2019, 12:26 PM SGT

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – The Riau Police have named 12 people suspects in land and forest fire cases in Riau province, where wildfires have destroyed 2,719ha of land in the past three months.

The police arrested six people in Rokan Hilir, Bengkalis, Meranti Islands, Pekanbaru and Dumai from January to February, according to Riau police chief inspector General Widodo Eko Prihastopo.

“Six others were caught red-handed burning land to clear land,” Gen Widodo said on Monday (March 25).

All 12 suspects were farmers and residents.

Ten of the suspects are currently under investigation while another two were handed to prosecutors.

“All are individual suspects. None of them were corporations,” Gen Widodo said.

The police, he said, would not hesitate to take action if they found evidence of the involvement of a corporation.

The head coordinator of the Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD), Mr. Edwar Sanger, said the wildfires were likely to keep spreading, as the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) in Pekanbaru was still detecting hot spots.

Mr. Edwar said Bengkalis was the hardest hit regency with 1,263ha of burned land. Most districts in the regency have experienced wildfires since early this year.

However, the most severe wildfires were seen on Rupat Island, where peatland was on fire throughout February, causing thick smoke that spread to the city of Dumai on the Sumatran mainland.

Aside from Bengkalis, severe wildfires were reported in the east coast areas of Rokan Hilir (407ha), Meranti (222.4ha) and Dumai (192.25ha).

Moreover, Mr. Edwar revealed that wildfires had ravaged 314.5ha of land in Siak Regency, 107.1ha in Indragiri Hilir, 64.5ha in Indragiri Hulu, 37.75ha in Pekanbaru, 26.6ha in Kampar, 5ha in Kuantan Singingi and 2ha in Rokan Hulu.

Riau Police spokesperson senior commander Sunarto said the Rokan Hilir police were handling three suspects who were caught red-handed burning 7.05ha of land.

The Bengkalis police, similarly, named one person a suspect for allegedly starting a fire that hit 0.5ha of land.

Five suspects were being handled by the Dumai police in a case involving 12.5ha of burned land.

The Meranti police named two people suspects for allegedly burning 3.2ha of land while the Pekanbaru police named one other a suspect for allegedly burning 0.5ha.

“One case in Dumai and another in Meranti Islands have been handed over to prosecutors for further investigation,” Mr Sunarto said.

Concerns over forest fires have grown recently, with the country having experienced an increase in damages cause by fires from 11,127ha of burned land and forest in 2017 to more than 30,000ha in 2018, Environment and Forestry Ministry data show.

The Indonesian military, the police, the BPBD, and the Manggala Agni fire department are attempting to put out the flames using aerial firefighting helicopters.

“The National Disaster Mitigation Agency already lent us three helicopters. We received three (more) from private parties and one more will be lent to us.” Mr. Edwar said as quoted by Antara news agency.

He added that the Environment and Forestry Ministry, the police and the military would also lend one helicopter each to help with the efforts.

Sumatra and Kalimantan experienced devastating fires in 2015, with more than 1 million ha of forest destroyed and dozens of people killed.

A prolonged dry season caused by an especially strong El Niño effect was blamed for the fires. However, environmentalists and rights activists have said they believe slash-and-burn land clearing for oil palm and other plantations is the real cause.

The government has taken strong measures against forest fires ever since, including fining companies. However, it has yet to issue court verdicts in any wildfire cases involving companies.

Link: https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/twelve-named-suspects-as-helicopters-fight-raging-flames-in-riau

Sarawak hit by 176 forest fires in 21 days

Sarawak hit by 176 forest fires in 21 days

By KANDAU SIDI – 

MIRI: A total of 176 forest fire cases were reported throughout Sarawak in the span of 21 days, affecting a total coverage area of 109 hectares.

Apart from Miri, forest fires were also reported in Bintulu, Kuching, and Sarikei believed to be due to the hot and dry weather affecting the state.

A spokesman for the Sarawak Fire and Rescue Operations Centre said this marked an increase in the number of forest fire cases since early last month.

Last month, a total of 19 bush fires were reported.

“The extreme weather means that fires can easily spread and are hard to contain.

“As such, we are appealing to the people to refrain from conducting any form of open burning,” said the department in a statement.

The fires, which has so far centered around Sarawak’s northern region, has also led to reports of thick haze due to the smoke.

Link: https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2019/03/471626/sarawak-hit-176-forest-fires-21-days

Thailand’s North choking on toxic haze from fires

Thailand’s North choking on toxic haze from fires