CityNews – Following the meeting held on the 19th May 2019 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, here were some of the discussions from the smaller working groups held in the afternoon of the meeting:
A group of farmers and highlanders from Chiang Rai: The official response to fire is insufficient, leaving villagers to fend for themselves, villagers also feel aggrieved that they are the ones fighting the fire alone with no budget, yet often vilified by city people. Officials do not discuss any plans with villagers and often come in late and do not coordinate with those on the ground. They ask for more participation in planning, details of budget, cooperation and respect from officials, lessening of penalties and suspicions as well as longer term plans as to how to prevent fires as well as support in growing agricultural products which are more environmentally friendly.
Lamphun community leaders: 70% of Lamphun’s pollution comes from industry and waste, the actual burning has lessened dramatically in recent years. Lamphun citizens would like to see smaller community groups set up across a network to work together to identify and prevent forest fires. They believe that with organisation they will be able to tackle the problem on a provincial level. They are unable to do anything about the industries and garbage disposal though and ask the government to consider initiating heavy environmental taxes on industries and for local authorities to take more responsibility when getting rid of waste.
The Blue Sky Network: The hed thob mushroom gatherers cause many fires and often authorities are unable to access fires when far from main roads. They offer solutions in that concessions are given to gatherers in certain areas of the forest to gather mushrooms, offering them only to those known not to burn. Also set clear parameters of areas of forest management so that all areas will have someone or some group responsible. Study jungle food and gather relevant data to find a way that gathers can coexist with nature.
Mae Chaem Network: They have made great strides in reducing the corn growing in the area, the past year replanting 1000 rai of corn with other plants. They will also begin to offer concessions for villagers to use national park areas in return for protecting them against those who come in to destroy the parks. The group also suggested Chiang Mai held a world conference on pollution here, inviting the best minds in the world to come help solve the regional problem. They also wish to create a youth network to raise awareness and activism in the next generation. They also suggest that if villagers saw the PM2.5 readings with their own eyes, if machines can be distributed to all areas, it would make the problem more relatable.
The Nan Working Group: City dwelers feel disconnected to the fire burning areas – forests – and there is a duel narrative as to how to solve the problems. They also say that many of the fires are caused by human conflict. They say that the law acts against any real solutions as it prevents non-officials from managing much of the forest lands. They also say that the vision of their leaders are constantly changing with each new election.
Mae Hong Son Group: Solutions offered are all top-down and not realistic in terms of practical application. They say that there is no urgency or lack of understanding as to why villagers should change, “what they have been doing for generations”, as villagers see it as their way of life. The group says that MHS is so inaccessible in so many areas that it is hard to get the correct message out.
- Constant support from the media, such as PBS, to drum the message home about the dangers of pollution.
- More citizen networks with access to correct information, data and solutions.
- Education on how to contain forest fires, how to create fire breaks and how to manage agricultural waste options.
- Government cooperation on a regional scale.
- Education to adjust the mindset of the entire region on matters of pollution.
- Reevaluation of all existing laws and punishments because each area is different, each factor that contributes to the pollution comes from a different cause and citizens wish to have more participation in how to write and enact laws so that they are in fact effective, not just punitive. It is important that those living in the remote areas be part of the solution, not just seen as the problem. They wish to have a voice and would like to help set localised standards of prevention.
- Change attitude of the public who are now ‘used’ to pollution, change attitude of those who set policies, change practices and knowledge for agricultural management, change habits of city people, reassess relationship between forests+communities+economy of the poor+the law.
- Enact the Clean Air Act.
- Combine all up-to-date research and data as well as any innovation and make it accessible to all.
- Education to all areas.
- Accept that pollution is a natural disaster.
- Turn dry forests into wet jungles.
- End all new sources of pollution, such as the Om Koi mines.
- Constant news and communication through the media with the general public across all sectors.
CityNews had to leave before the end of the conference, but we will be updating you as to the group’s progress. Its main aims are to aggregate and correlate all data and research, bring together various groups who are working in the same areas, raise awareness, and lobby the government into creating the Clean Air Act.
For more information please see: www.thaicleanair.net.
Related article: Clean Air White Paper