CityNews – on the 19th May 2019 a gathering of over 100 activists, media, farmers, researchers and community leaders came together at Green Nimman, organised by The Network of Clean Air and the Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking (JSCCIB), as well as being broadcast live on PBS.
A ‘White Book’ was published and handed out to all participants who spent the morning listening to a panel of experts in a variety of fields, and the afternoon splitting into smaller groups tasked with proposing and discussing solutions to the myriad of issues faced by the annual pollution crisis.
The meeting comprised of dozens of groups across Thailand including: Green Peace, SEA, Friends of Firefighters Chiang Mai, Green and Jungle Loving Youth of Chiang Dao, Raks Lanna, Lampang Rung Arun Public Service Group, Baan Hua Thung Tin Niyom Gang, Kiew Suay Hom, Smoke: Chiang Mai, Ubon Rachathani’s Health Lovers’ Group, Trees in the City Group, Doi Suthep Reforestation Group, Bangkok Breathe, Isaan’s Women for Health Group, Smoke Watch, BigTree Project, ThaiPrompt, CIVICNET, Blue Sky Chiang Mai, Smogathon Thai and many other groups were present.
This was the sixth such meeting of the group, which only formed in January of this year and the group published the White Book which it handed out to all participants.
“What came out of the event was that it made all sectors of society see one another,” said Wittaya Krongsap, Director of Environment of Chiang Mai’s Chamber of Commerce and one of the event’s organisers.
“Those who are suffering in the city have been outraged as we know the health hazards of the pollution and we shout at the people in the mountains doing the burning. However, spending the day listening to representatives of mountain communities, we learned that matters were not so cut and dry. Many ethnic communities have spent centuries managing the forests, using slash and burn rotational farming to effectively keep the soil healthy, the number of leaves on the forest floor, which are essentially fuel, reduced and the forests healthy. They had it all under control. These are not the people who are the problems, but the front line of people fighting these fires and suffering the most.”
Wittaya went on to explain that it wasn’t until around 2007 that the issue became critical, which coincided with the beginning of one-crop agriculture, promoted by big industry. “Yes, the ethnic groups then changed their practice and contributed to the pollution, but it was the support and encouragement of the big agro industry, especially corn feed, that really tipped the scale. We also learned that it is no longer villagers picking mushrooms and doing small fires to collect them for personal use, but often people from other areas with no knowledge or love of the forests, who are being paid by the day by big companies to collect as many mushrooms as possible. Mae Hong Son exports over 100 million baht in hed thorb mushrooms to China per year, Om Koi District alone exports 10 million. This is huge business.”
“So we came to realise that we all had perspectives which were valid and that we shouldn’t point fingers to one another.”
Wittaya went on to say that it was clear that Thailand needs a Clean Air Act which is clear, encompassing and with a long term vision.
“We currently have some of the best legal minds in the nation working on drafting this act and many researchers are supporting them by providing a mass of data so that the act is something we can all get behind and support and one which works for all of us, allowing people to live in the forests, in the cities and all breathe clean air.”
Right now, The Network of Clean Air and the JSCCIB, as well as numerous other groups are continueing to campaign and Citylife will be posting their activities and intitiatives as we learn about them. This Monday, for instance, there will be a meeting to discuss a tree planting initiative held at Kiddy Bear Kindergarten.
“What I would like you to ask your readers is that they raise their voices. If they can send letters to Citylife in their name, representing their company, and we can collect a mass of these to send to the authorities to show that millions of baht may be left because expats are displeased and withdrawing funds and support, this will add weight.”
To that end, please send your letters, complains, suggestions or support you wish to offer to those working towards clean air to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please see here or ideas and concerns raised by the meeting from some of the participants.