Editorial : August 2006
DoiSuthep is such an integral part of life in Chiang Mai: we listened as children, wide-eyed, to the story of pregnant Nang Bua Ban whose unrequited love led her to jump to her death at Wang Bua Ban Waterfalls during the second world war; we enjoyed afternoon picnics sliding down rocks into Montatarn’s crystal pools as adolescents; we naughtily snuck up to lie on the road and watch the stars with our sweethearts as teenagers; we scattered our loved one’s ashes deep into the jungle, at peace that one day our own body-dust will also mingle with the mountain’s earth; we lit our candles and circled the sacred pagoda in age old rituals on auspicious occasions; and, at the end of a long hard day, we sit on our city balconies with a glass of wine and think how lucky we are to have such a magnificent view.
John Hobday, one of this magazine’s founders, popped into the office recently and suggested that I looked into the state of DoiSuthep-Pui National Park. Because this wasn’t a sexy sounding story, I dragged my feet for a few weeks before I began to look into it.
It didn’t take long, though, for me to discover — from the outspoken superintendent of the national park, the recalcitrant abbot of DoiSuthep temple, a few passionate scientists and conservationists, evasive government officials and various parties involved in the mountain range – that our beautiful green mountain is in crisis.
Like Thailand itself, this precious 160,000 rai national park is being attacked by tumors of corruption and abuse of power, which must be treated immediately, or we will find that it’s too late to be salvaged.
The National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department is, on paper, in charge. But then the Fine Arts and Religious Affairs Department also lay claim to certain territories of the park, as does the Night Safari, Chiang Mai University, Royal Navy (though we are a good 800 kilometres from the sea) and plenty of other organisations and village communities.
Do they all need to be there? Of course not. But while the national park has sensible regulations any national park should have, as well as the power by law to enforce them, this means nothing when they lack the muscles when facing higher political clout.
The park, through over population, is being sucked dry of water, which can potentially cause untold damage not only to the mountains, but to the city as a whole. It is rotten with garbage and waste. It is being encroached on by communities and developments. Its wildlife is dwindling and dying. Its sacred status is being mocked by Disneyesque projects and the clutter and garish ‘developments’ added to and around the temple, and its land is being carved off chunk by chunk for all sorts of silly projects.
I really do believe that it is terribly important for US to start raising awareness of this tragic exploitation. We have all taken so much from this mountain, be it afternoons spent walking along lush jungle trails or simply using the mountain as a point of reference when getting lost in the labyrinth of Chiang Mai’s roads.
The problem is US. We are killing the trees, the animals, the waterways, the entire ecosystem.
I can’t imagine a Chiang Mai without a lush green DoiSuthep to draw comfort from.
While I cannot stress enough how serious the situation is on the DoiSuthep-Pui National Park, and you can read all about this outrage in the story, DoiSuthep in Crisis, we also have some light and humorous articles for you to giggle at this month. I invited six single expatriate ladies to my house for an evening of chardonnay and chat to find out what it was like being single in Chiang Mai and found that girls definitely do have fun! James Austin Farrell does what he does best this month by spending his nights in Chiang Mai’s various clubs to bring you a selection of the city’s favourite and most notorious post-midnight venues. He also braved the dice and found himself working as zookeeper for a day getting swatted at by panthers and pecked by penguins, and Oliver Benjamin, no longer challenged by Chiang Mai’s notorious motorists, gets his glands secreting adrenalin in overdrive at the X- Centre in Mae Rim
Happy happy August.