Air Pollution in Chiang Mai
Local farmers throughout northern Thailand continue to traditionally ‘slash and burn’ the crops, typically between February and April every year.
Particularly post-harvest rice and maize fields are set on fire in order to clear the land of plant remains and, at the same time, fertilise the soil in preparation for the replanting of crops before the rainy season starts. Unfortunately this results in chronic air pollution in and around Chiang Mai. The evidence is seen in constant smoke, haze, dust and debris in the city and surrounds.
Despite the dangerous level of air pollution in Chiang Mai, many people are still going outside without proper facemasks and many people continue to exercise and jog in the evening.
At the time this article was written, the air quality at real time in Chiang Mai was recorded at 163. It is almost Mid-April, and the air pollution is suppose to be decreasing.
What is being done about it?
Reactionary initiatives by local authorities to combat the smog involve the implementation of fire bans (and the attendant imposition of financial penalties on those caught in violation), extinguishment of forest fires, distribution of face masks as well as the deployment of aircraft over Chiang Mai with the purpose of seeding clouds in order to artificially induce rain or to disperse large quantities of water into the air in an effort to dampen the smoke.
But is this enough?
Have the blue skies returned to our city?
Besides the tens of thousands of individuals treated for respiratory-related conditions at this time of year, the dense smog that often shrouds the city severely reduces the visibility (down to as little as 100-200m) often blocking out the sun, obscuring views of the magnificent Doi Suthep mountain, now and again preventing flights from landing at Chiang Mai Airport.
Blue skies are sometimes visible in the early hours, but maybe we’re just wanting to believe they’re returning… being it almost mid-April.
You Should Wear the Face Mask, or just go on vacation
The cheap surgical style cloth masks so often worn by local Thai people should be avoided, and so should simply just covering your nose and mouth with a bandana or similar article, as this is ineffective as a barrier against the harmful particles carried in the air. Instead, opt for a facemask/respirator which is certified to screen against the smallest and most damaging airborne impurities, and, ideally, one with a layer of activated charcoal to additionally absorb the smell of smoke.
If you’re in a situation where your finances allow, stick to the south of Thailand during this time. The beach is lovely this time of year.
The forecast for Chiang Mai’s sky
In the past, by the end of Songkran Festival, Thailand’s New Year, the rain starts to come and the air quality gets better.
Songkran has now started, and we are hoping for the best…