By Tossapol Boonpat
The Nation Weekend
Citing a satellite image report from the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency, the centre said that from January 1 to March 16, 2,680,634 rai (428,901 hectares) was destroyed by wildfires. The devastation included 102,268 rai in Chiang Rai, 374,313 rai in Chiang Mai, 791,301 rai in Tak, 221,300 rai in Nan, 150,995 rai in Phayao, 176,107 rai in Phrae, 203,889 rai in Mae Hong Son, 470,009 rai in Lampang and 190,452 rai in Lamphun.
As of 1.47am on Friday, the daily satellite image showed that Mae Hong Son had 124 hotspots (10 in Pang Mapha, 17 in Pai, 30 in Muang, 16 in Khun Yuam, three in Mae La Noi, 26 in Mae Sariang and 22 in Sop Moei districts).
A source Royal Forest Department, however, said people should not be overly alarmed by such high figures, as the wildfires had swept through dried, flammable materials on the floors of the forests, and most trees will once again start producing new leaves.
The source said the fires had also thinned the hard shells of pods, so when the rains come, seedlings can sprout faster.
Unhealthy levels of smog were again recorded in the nine northern provinces and one province in the Central region, with Chiang Mai once again ranked as the world’s worst polluted country, the Pollution Control Department (PCD) said.
Pralong Damrongthai, PCD director-general, said hazardous levels of air pollution were detected in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lampang, Lamphun, Mae Hong Son, Nan, Phayao, Phrae and Tak provinces, as well as in the Central province of Nakhon Sawan.
The level of PM2.5, or particulate matter 2.5 micrometer or less in diameter, was measured at 51 to 194 micrograms per cubic metre of air in the nine northern provinces in 24 hours to 9am on Friday. The safe threshold for PM2.5 is set at 50mcg in Thailand.
Mae Hong Son’s PM2.5 level stood at 104mcg, while tambon Wiang Phang Kham in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district was worst off at 194mcg followed by tambon Huai Khon in Nan’s Chalerm Phrakiat district with 165mcg, and tambon Ban Tom in Phayao’s Muang district with 126mcg. Chiang Mai’s four stations cited PM2.5 levels of between 69mcg and 99mcg with Chang Pheuk in Muang district having the worst reading at 99mcg.