Sunday, October 25, 2020

Submarines no defence as smog invades the North again 

Dec 12. 2017
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It is that time of the year when we are starting reading press coverage of the problem of smoke and haze in Thailand – and what to do about it.

I have to say that those of who live “upcountry” long to see some positive action rather than simply reading the same old platitudes that are trotted out year after year.

Letters will no doubt be sent to your paper and others complaining about the black ash that falls from the sky and covers people and property, about an increase in respiratory problems and about hospitals that try to cope with them. Every year the problem is the same, as is the effort to control it – namely zero. The slash-and-burn hill farmers will be blamed once again and the main culprits, the big agro-giants, are unlikely to get even a passing slap on the wrist. There are too many vested interests and powerful individuals to let that happen.

Leaving aside the agro-giants, who could do with an Article 44 rein-in, the reasons for the farmers’ contribution to the January-February air pollution are easy to understand: too much rice straw/sugar cane/potato haulms/corn stalks etc after the harvest. What to do with it all? There is too much to plough back in without mulching it – and there are no mulching machines. Baling the straw is okay if you need the straw and can find a baler locally. Burning is easy and costs nothing and the average farmer is unlikely to lose much sleep over the resulting air pollution. His choice is an easy one to make.

Those in government who live in Bangkok are, for the most part, unaffected by the problem so are also unlikely to lose much sleep over it. Their choice therefore as to whether or not to do something is equally easy: in time honoured fashion, ignore the problem and it will go away – until this time next year. But it won’t, and one can’t help thinking that a fraction of the money spent on just one Chinese submarine could provide sufficient mulchers and balers to go a long way towards seriously reducing the January-February smog in the Kingdom. But then I always was a dreamer!

Johnny Thoyts



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