If the reader has already been in Chiang Mai at this time of the year, he/she would know how it feel to be outside now. Yes, burning season can be felt in the air everywhere like a bully in your classroom. This article will help you by reviewing different types of masks that you can get in most pharmacies/drug stores and their prices. It will also talk about what is happening at this time and exclusive inside view of why it happens, as the writer is a history graduate and daughter of a farmer.
One of the reasons this area was chosen to be the buffer around Lanna was the greatest of nature's strong shields, the mountains around the city. In the Lanna kingdom's beginnings, the Burmese king and Ayuthaya king wanted to take Lanna as their own land. This caused Lanna to be attacked very often by the surrounding kingdoms. However, the Lanna people knew their own home better so it was not easy to attack Lanna. And one of the reasons that kept Lanna safe was their better defensive geography.
As you can see from the picture above, Chiang Mai is located in a basin, where smoke stays trapped during the summer. And it not only contains the smoke in the city, but also smoke from surrounding cities like Lamphun or Chiang Rai.
Campaigns to reduce the smoke have been encouraged all around the city. But you can only do so much and smoke is still being breathed in. So it would be a better idea to get a mask to help protect your lungs.
Could I get face mask please?
You can get masks at most pharmacies. The bigger the shop is, the greater the variety of masks there will be. If you go to the pharmacy in the department stores, such as Watsons or Boots, it will be the same price for the same product. However, in a magical place like Thailand, buying from pharmacies by the street will mean different prices. If your bargaining skills are good or the shop is big enough, you may get a better price. However, the price of the mask at every shop shouldn't be that different from the examples (in the picture down below) by more than 10 Baht.
Ok, that is better. Now we are all wearing masks. So, now I can go on about where the smoke came from.
Do the Burmese Cause Air Pollution in CNX?
There was a report in 2015 that said the cause of air pollution in Chiang Mai has been created by Burmese people. I think that report jumped the gun and lacked good information.
There are many contributions from all around the area. The most likely and best I can back up is that it probably comes from farming. As you may know, agriculture is the dominant career of Thailand. 40.7% of Thai people work in agriculture (National Statistical Office Thailand, 2012). Most farming is for rice, corn, beans and sugarcane. However, the average of monthly salary agricultural workers was the lowest paid industry at about 4,813 Baht (National Statistical Office Thailand, 2012). That income can barely make a living despite that they, at this point, farm 4 times a year, more times than they ever did in the Thai farming history.
The cost of living is getting more and more expensive. There is a lack of healthcare and quality public education has pushed farmers to make more money by speeding up the farming process. The difficulties that farmers have to hold on their shoulders alone have left them no choice but to burn it down because that is faster than hauling away the previous crops.
It used to be, about 50 years ago, that rice farmers would not farm in the summer season and only farm a maximum of 3 times a year, usually only 2. That was enough to feed people. Now, farmers can sell their rice in only 8,000 per 2,000 liters (and that is per one time farming). Plus, the monopoly of the market in Thailand does not help this cycle. Farming equipment is extremely expensive. Farmers have no bargaining power. Many of them get more in debt every year. So they burn down the straw after it has been harvested to start putting down new seeds as soon as possible. As you may have guessed, the end of March and beginning of April is the harvest season. The result is that they can make extra income each year and we suffer the smoke again.
The old way farmers cleaned up after the harvest involved ploughing the field. That took about 2 months before they could start farming again. Burning it down, however, takes only 2 days before farming can begin. In the Northern case, most of them farm corn, which they uses the same process of burning before planting the new seeds. Planting on the slope of the mountain is not easy. For instance, to take rice or corn straw away or plough up and over would be twice s hard as on low land. It seems burning is the perfect answer to make a living in the mountains. So how bad does the smoke make the quality of the air? I will use an example of only one small area, Chang Puak in Chiang Mai's downtown. However, you can go online from the link down below to check the air quality in your area.
Northern Provinces, Air Quality Situation
The report from Air Quality and Noise Management Bureau Pollution Control Department reports that on the 25th of March 2016, the air quality situation in the Northern Provinces, including the city of Chiang Mai, was...
"Air emission(s) that exceed the standard is/are particulate matter with smaller than 10 micrometers (PM10) in amount between 98-252 microgram per cubic metre. And one of the places mentioned was Chiang mai."
The next line suggests that the air quality was unhealthy. And the health recommendation was...
Children, the elderly and patients with respiratory disease. Avoid activities in the area. Smog covered. If unavoidable should wear the mask. People are asked to keep up the practice. The recommendation of the Governor. And if illness should seek medical advice.
I know Chiang Mai is a beautiful, friendly and culturally rich city. But at the end of the day you have to enjoy the city and stay healthy. Hopefully, this article will help you in getting your own mask and better understand why things happen. As much as I love clean air in Chiang Mai's city but I am also looking forward to the day that Thai markets having less monopoly characteristics. I'm also really looking forward to the day that Thai farmers will have a better standard of living, so we can all be happy with our lovely city and country. And that needs everyone's help :)