The Thai government may resort to harsher measures, including curfews in some areas, to deal with the lighting of forest fires and burning of farm waste, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Varawut Silpa-archa warned today (Monday), as air pollution in northern and north-eastern provinces increases.
He said that the government does not want to impose harsh measures, which may affect a lot of people, but may have no choice if some continue to light fires in forests and burn their farm waste.
The minister disclosed that the Thai government has sought help from the Secretary-General of ASEAN, in reminding member countries about the cross-border haze problem and urging their citizens not to burn farm waste or light forest fires, but the problem persists.
Varawut said that the ministry has mobilised more than 1,000 people to control forest fires in national parks, with the support of the ministry’s helicopters, which are conducting about 100 flights each day.
He urged local administrative organisations to help in the control of forest fires in about 40% of national forest reserves, which were transferred from the Forest Department to their supervision and management about a decade ago.
About 80% of fires are in national forest reserves and 15% on farmland.
Varawut said that he will provide a report on the air pollution problem to the cabinet tomorrow and discuss measures to be taken to cope with the problem.
He admitted that the PM2.5 dust problem this year is several times worse than the last year, adding that, even though steps have been taken since late last year, they are inadequate to cope with the situation.
According to the Geo-informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GITSDA), 5,572 hotspots were detected in Thailand yesterday, which was a 5-year record high. In the meantime, there were 10,563 hotspots in Myanmar, 9,652 in Laos, 1,342 in Cambodia, 870 in Vietnam and 22 in Malaysia.