Chiang Rai fires mostly contained; locals urged to report arsonists

Chiang Rai fires mostly contained; locals urged to report arsonists

national April 18, 2019

By Natthawat Laping
The Nation

THE HUGE FIRE, which this week turned Doi Jorakhe into an inferno and destroyed more than 1,000 rai (160 hectares) of forestland, has been contained with most hot spots put out, deputy governor Narong Rojjanasothorn said yesterday.

However, the battles against wildfires will continue elsewhere in Chiang Rai, which still suffers from 380 hotspots, Narong said after meeting with the Doi Jorakhe special coordination center for fighting forest fires, located at Wat Pateung in Mae Chan district.

As of 2 am yesterday, 952 hotspots were cited in the upper North (380 in Chiang Rai, 120 in Nan, 106 in Mae Hong Son, 92 in Chiang Mai, 82 in Lampang, 58 in Phayao, 56 in Tak, 52 in Phrae and six in Lamphun), while Myanmar had 3,480 hotspots and Laos 1,800.

Forest fires continued to contribute to dangerous levels of PM2.5 – airborne particulates 2.5 microns or less in diameter – in many parts of the upper North. The Pollution Control Department (PCD) at 9 am put the 24-hour average of PM2.5 at 159 micrograms per cubic meter of air in Tambon Wiang of Muang Chiang Rai, and at 170mcg in Tambon Wiang Phang Kham in Mae Sai district.

As of press time, three of the five fires on Doi Jorakhe had been totally put out, while two other hot spots – forestland near a Mae Chan monastery and the “Pha Toob” forestland in the Taad Thong Waterfall area – were being handled and firebreaks being built to protect communities, Narong said.

Narong also called on people to watch out for those who were sparking the forest fire, so they can be punished. He also noted that Chiang Rai had not experienced extensive forest fires caused by human acts in the past two years. Paying tribute to the hard work of some 600 officials and volunteers who joined the Doi Jorakhe battle, he also noted that two choppers had carried nearly 70,000 liters of water in more than 80 flights to douse flames in hard-to-reach areas.

The Doi Jorakhe wildfire caught public attention as photos of the fire were widely shared on Thai social media. His Majesty the King had graciously seen to it that a mobile kitchen was dispatched from the 37th Military Circle to support the Doi Jorakhe forest firefighters, while members of the public also delivered drinking water and tools to aid the effort.

Chiang Rai still has 380 hotspots to douse, the deputy governor noted. They included Doi Kad Phee in tambon Wawi of Mae Suay district that had started on Tuesday night and spread to the three nearby Tambons of Mae Suay, Mae Prik, and Sri Tham.

In a related development, a 46-year-old man was arrested on Tuesday afternoon in tambon Por of Wiang Kaen district for alleged setting fire to the scrub on his farmland, which spread through 5 rai of forestland.


Regime seeks neighbours’ help on smog

Regime seeks neighbors’ help on smog

Laos, Myanmar sent letters on North crisis

10 Apr 2019 at 12:53



The government has sought cooperation from Myanmar and Laos to help mitigate haze, which is wreaking havoc in the North, according to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Gen Prayut said the bush fires and haze in the northern provinces have diminished, though the situation also depends on neighboring countries.

“I yesterday wrote to Laos and Myanmar asking them to help us tackle these problems,” said Gen Prayut.

He said Thai officials on the ground are also working with their Myanmar counterparts to deal with the issue, including sharing equipment to douse fires.

Gen Prayut also called on firefighters to be cautious about combatting bush fires. In the areas where fires are raging, they should consider making buffer zones to defend wildlife, he noted.

“As for those who start the fires, they must face prosecution as they violated the law,” said Gen Prayut.

According to the premier, the government has devised several measures to combat haze, including seeking cooperation from companies to refrain from buying crops from farmers who encroach on forest land or conduct inappropriate farming practices.

Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda said the number of bush fires in the nine northern provinces dropped from almost 2,000 on April 2 to around 300 on Tuesday.

“Well, cooperation has been given by local people overall, but some residents are still setting fires in the forest, so a better understanding must be created and this may take time,” said Gen Anupong.

Meanwhile, 15 tampons have joined a campaign to prepare for the impact of global warming.

Eight tambon administrative organizations (TAO) recently signed an agreement to develop a learning center for environmental management and global warming mitigation at a tourist service center in Chiang Rai’s Thoeng district.

These TAOs are from Si Sa Ket, Ubon Ratchathani, Chaiyaphum, Udon Thani, Chiang Mai, Prachin Buri, and Chiang Rai. Another seven TAOs, which had earlier participated in the campaign, was also present.

They formed part of a network called “Smart Camp: Smart Network: Smart Community” operating under the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth).


buffer: a thing or person that reduces a shock or protects somebody/something against difficulties – ตัวกัน

counterpart (noun): someone who has the same job or purpose as another person, but in a different country, time, situation or organization – คนที่อยู่ในตำแหน่งเดียวกันของอีกประเทศ หรือ กลุ่มหนึ่ง

diminish: to gradually become less – ลดลง, อ่อนแรง

douse (verb): to pour a lot of liquid over somebody/something; to soak somebody/something in liquid สาดน้ำหรือของเหลว, จุ่มในของเหลว – สาดน้ำหรือของเหลว, จุ่มในของเหลว

encroach: to gradually enter, cover or take control of more and more of an area of land or sea – บุกรุก, ล่วงล้ำ

haze: water, smoke or dust in the air that makes it difficult to see clearly – หมอกควัน

mitigate: to make something less harmful or serious – บรรเทา

mitigation: a reduction in the harmful effects of something – การบรรเทา  การผ่อนคลาย

wreaking havoc: causing something bad to happen in a violent and often uncontrolled way – ทำให้เกิด ความเสียหายอย่างรุนแรง, ทำให้เกิดความหายนะ


Future without intact forests?

Future without intact forests?

Despite a decades-long effort to halt deforestation, nearly 10 percent of undisturbed forests have been fragmented, degraded or simply chopped down since 2000, according to the analysis of satellite imagery.

Average daily loss over the first 17 years of this century was more than 200 square kilometers.

“Degradation of intact forest represents a global tragedy, as we are systematically destroying a crucial foundation of climate stability,” said Frances Seymour, a senior distinguished fellow at the World Resources Institute (WRI), and a contributor to the research, presented this week at a conference in Oxford.

“Forests are the only safe, natural, proven and affordable infrastructure we have for capturing and storing carbon.”

The findings come as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and five major conservation organizations launched a five-year plan, Nature4Climate, to better leverage land use in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that drive global warming.

“Thirty-seven percent of what is needed to stay below two degrees Celsius” – the cornerstone goal of the 196-nation Paris Agreement – “can be provided by land”, said Andrew Steer, WRI president, and CEO. “But only three percent of the public funding for mitigation goes to land and forest issues – that needs to change.”

Beyond climate, the last forest frontiers play a critical role in maintaining biodiversity, weather stability, clean air, and water quality. Some 500 million people worldwide depend directly on forests for their livelihoods.

A future without intact forests?

So-called intact forest landscapes – which can include wetlands and natural grass pastures – are defined as areas of at least 500 square kilometers with no visible evidence in satellite images of large-scale human use.

That means no roads, industrial agriculture, mines, railways, canals or transmission lines.

As of January 2017, there were about 11.6 million square kilometers of forests worldwide that still fit these criteria. From 2014 to 2016, that area declined by more than 87,000 square kilometers each year.

“Many countries may lose all their forest wildlands in the next 15 to 20 years,” Peter Potapov, an associate professor at the University of Maryland and lead scientist for the research, said.

On current trends, intact forests will disappear by 2030 in Paraguay, Laos, and Equatorial Guinea, and by 2040 in Cambodia, the Central African Republic, Nicaragua, Myanmar, and Angola.

“There could come a point in the future where no areas in the world qualify as ‘intact’ anymore,” said Tom Evans, director for forest conservation and climate mitigation at the Wildlife Conservation Society.

“It is certainly worrying.”

In tropical countries, the main causes of virgin forest loss are conversion to agriculture and logging. In Canada and the United States, fire is the main culprit, while in Russia and Australia, the destruction has been driven by fires, mining, and energy extraction.
Compared to annual declines during the period 2000-2013, Russia lost, on average, 90 percent more each year from 2014 to 2016. For Indonesia, the increase was 62 percent, and for Brazil, it was 16 percent.

Protected areas

The new results are based on a worldwide analysis of satellite imagery, built on a study first done in 2008 and repeated in 2013.

“The high-resolution data, like the one collected by the Landsat program, allows us to detect human-caused alteration and fragmentation of forest wildlands,” Potapov said.

Presented at the Intact Forests in the 21st Century conference at Oxford University, the finding will be submitted for peer-reviewed publication, said Potapov, who delivered a keynote to the three-day gathering.

Addressing colleagues from around the world, Potapov also challenged the effectiveness of a global voluntary certification system.

Set up in 1994 and backed by green groups such as the World Wildlife Fund, the self-stated mission of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is to “promote environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world’s forests”.

Many forest-products carry the FSC label, designed to reassure eco-conscious consumers.

But approximately half of all intact forest landscapes inside FSC-certified concessions were lost from 2000 to 2016 in Gabon and the Republic of Congo, the new data showed. In Cameroon, about 90 percent of FSC-monitored forest wildlands disappeared.
“FSC is an effective mechanism to fragment and degrade remaining intact forest landscapes, not a tool for their protection,” Potapov said.

National and regional parks have helped to slow the rate of decline.

The chances of forest loss were found to be three times higher outside protected areas than inside them, the researchers reported.

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