Editorial: July 2017

 |  July 1, 2017

Who’s a litterbug?

Well, judging from the vile amount of gunk and gore being dredged out of our drains and from our city canals over the past few weeks, far too many of us.

On May 19th parts of the city was flooded following unusually torrential rain unseasonably early in the year. Pictures of people rowing themselves in large buckets and parked motorbikes being swept away by currents of muddy brown water was shared on both social and traditional media and it soon emerged that much of the flooding was caused by blocked waterways.

While some canals were clogged by more bucolic impediments such as the masses of ubiquitous water hyacinth, their vibrant and lush green networks and clusters belying their powers of obstruction, most of the flotsam and jetsam discovered were more prosaic everyday items only surprising in their sheer volume such as the hundreds of large bottles of beers removed from one drain in Haiya Sub-district or the detritus of construction often found tipped over a wall into a stream. Then there was the extraordinary — entire stacks of mattresses, old motorbikes, refrigerators, fans and air-conditioning units found in city canals all recently scooped up by a municipality under the spotlight of a curious media. While it was a shocking sight to see so much waste being dredged up, much of it looked fairly new, supporting the municipality’s insistence that contrary to popular belief, they indeed regularly clean our city’s pipes, so to speak.

I sat down with the mayor’s secretary Assanee Buranupakorn the other day and as we were talking about the shocking amount of garbage featured all over the media, I complained that in the soi where I live there are only two waste bins. Why is there such a dearth of bins in the city, I put to him? I must admit that I was very surprised by his answer which was that everyone wanted a bin, just not outside their homes or places of business. Because we live in the tropics where rats, cockroaches and ants in mind boggling numbers have the ability to sniff out and soon swarm over any rot or sweet putrid waste in a matter of seconds, bins, however often emptied, are bound to be vermin infested. While the idea of having one in front of one’s home or business is appealing, the reality can be, well not.

Then there is our laissez-faire sabai sabai attitude to littering and life itself, often taking the easy option without thought of consequences nor consideration to others. One report in Chiang Mai News recently mentioned the sheer number of soft drink cans and plastic bags found in drains outside schools, many of which are in low lying areas of the city, exacerbating water congestion in areas most affected.

The mayor’s office has recently launched the ‘No Littering No Flooding’ campaign which hopes to educate, shame and raise awareness of the harm of littering. I fully applaud this campaign and think that schools should become actively involved in it to educate future generations.

Littering is lazy, destructive and frankly selfish. Now we have to figure out where to put our litter when we can’t find a bin!

Citylife this month:

We have some huge feature articles for you this month and we hope you enjoy them as much as we all did in writing them. I join my very hard working and dedicated intern Piyapong Manekat from Mae Fah Luang University who has been by my side in interviewing many authorities in charge of flood prevention and relief and I hope that it gives you a clearer view of why our city floods and what can be done to prevent it. Aydan Stuart goes to explore the nearly legal new world of hemp production, our ex interns Marie McCoy-Thompson and Ortal Aizik try to tell us what sex workers want, our young new intern Tonsom Ruechaipanitch and I interview Jennifer Harhigh, the US Consul General and our recent intern Sloane Gordon who sadly had to return to Wyoming due to a family tragedy, left her story on the pros and cons of voluntourism with us before she departed. Lots of great stuff to read. Have fun!