CityNews had an informal chat with Sakda Darawan, expat liaison for the Breath Council Chiang Mai, who is also the admin for the popular Raks Mae Ping Facebook page, this morning, to find out what the council has been up to since its official formation last month.
“First of all, we have nearly zero budget,” said Sakda preemptively. “We do have enough to have hired an admin personnel for three months, so that is a start. What we have decided to do is launch a city-wide and hopefully province-wide campaign from the 1st of December to the end of January called Blue Sky Chiang Mai. Instead of green ribbons tied around trees, we will kick off with a parade and hand out blue ribbons which we hope everyone in Chiang Mai will tie around a tree to help raise awareness of the air pollution issue. The governor has already agreed to support the parade which will start at his residence on Tha Pae Road and go down to Tha Pae Gate. We hope to have youth activists join us and dancers wearing pollution masks.”
(Photo credit: Andrew Stuart)
Sakda went on to say that the council has been in talks with the governor who has agreed to fully commit to the issue and support the council with many of its initiatives. It has also been in talks with ministers in Bangkok who have agreed to set up a national PM 2.5 committee, to address this problem on a national scale. As to the council itself, it aims to use the first year to not only raise awareness but work on ten tambols, which it has already identified, to find replacement economy for them other than corn. These products will then receive the ‘Non burning products’ logo and will be exhibited at the International Convention Centre, which the governor has already agreed to sponsor. There will also be a ‘Good burning products’ logo which will be given to those who use bio-char to burn their waste instead of traditional ways, and Breathe Council hopes to meet with Warm Heart Foundation soon to discuss this in greater details. Marketing channels for such products will be sought with the largest outlet in the country to support these products in hopes that many other districts will soon join in. Some members of the committee will be monitoring satellite images and so far 10 district heads have signed agreements to join the initiative.
There will be a series of events throughout the two months of the Blue Sky campaign such as fun runs, cycling competitions and other awareness raising events.
Sakda has already met with a Swedish journalist who has interviewed him and the governor on the issue and says his job will be to reach out to the international media and have honest and open conversations about our problems and how we are tackling it in hopes of wider support and transparency.
“If we get the international media rooting for us, then the local media, many who are yet able to convey the pollution message in an effective way, may join in the bandwagon. This is a global problem and we would like to really lead the way in finding a solution. But we need everyone’s help. As expat liaison, please feel free to tell your readers to get in touch with me, have conversations, give suggestions and join in our common cause.”
Sakda can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.