Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Living in haze

One dark night while my wife and I were riding our motorcycle in the highway, my wife saw blazing fires in the mountains of Tachilek, a Myanmar town just across the border. She kept telling me to look at the sight, but I could not risk taking a glance and take away my eyes off the road, we might end up in a ditch.

The fire started a few days before, and it has been going on for more than two weeks. Apparently, the traditional slash-and-burn farmers set fire on the grass and the corn bushes. The fire got out of control. Perhaps this also started the forest fires in different areas in the mountains of Tachilek. Now the northern provinces of Thailand are shrouded with heavy haze.

The forest fires have been causing some serious health risks. The smoke and the dust particles technically called particulate matter (PM-10). It is very small about one-seventh the size of the human hair. This very tiny particle could easily get into the lungs and lodge there causing serious respiratory problems.

The Bangkok Post says:

[In order] to reduce their exposure to the harmful dust, the Public Health Ministry has distributed 130,000 masks to people in eight northern provinces - Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son, Lampang, Lamphun, Phrae, Nan and Phayao.
"The ministry has also given out leaflets telling people how to take care of their health in the face of thick smoke from burning activities," said permanent secretary for public health Prat Boonyawongvirote.

Yesterday, the level of PM-10 dust in Chiang Mai and Lampang was found to be beyond an acceptable standard. It was measured at 250.9 microgrammes per cubic metre in Chiang Mai and 154.8 in Lampang, against a health standard of 120 ug/cu m, according to the Pollution Control Department.

Because of poor visibility all flights going to Northern Thailand are cancelled. The government tried to start artificial rain to reduce humidity and control the fire and consequently the haze, but could not do so because of poor visibility.

We woke up this morning hoping that the sky would be clear, but the thick shroud of haze still hangs in the sky. We are all coughing, as our body try to dislodge the dust particles from our lungs. Our eyes are teary and painful. Nevertheless, we know that rain is coming soon and once again the sky will be clear and the air will be clean.

The picture in the header above is the picture I took with my digicam one clear afternoon.This time, you could not see anything in the sky but dark haze. I could not take pictures because my digicam broke a month ago. The pictures in this post are the best I can get from the internet.


paul said...

do you know where the masks were distributed? we would love to get a hold of some (of the legitimate ones) for some of the rural villagers who have to spend all day working out in the haze.

we haven't seen the sun in Chiang Rai in well over a week. it's kind of eerie, the rainy season can't come soon enough.

Joey said...

Hi Paul,

Like you I really been on the look out for the masks but I think they are doing it only to some selected areas.

I actually saw the sun early morning. Here you can only see the sun in the afternoon.

I heard sounds of thunder last night but we were disappointed when the rain didn't fall.

Thanks for the visit and the comments. By the way, you have a nice site.