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Chiang mai Burning: A Crisis in Northern Thailand (video)

SMOKE: A Crisis in Northern Thailand, the Health Effects and a Solution…

This film was presented as a work in progress at Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Agriculture on January 8th, 2016 to create awareness and begin a dialogue about the yearly smoke crisis in Northern Thailand.

Note: There are subtitles for people who don’t speak Thai and/or those studying the language.

Burning in Chiang mai…

When I arrived back in Thailand after the Xmas holidays this year, the Chiang mai air already had the telltale signs of burning. One day the smoke was so strong we walked around to the backyard to see what was on fire (nothing – just another day in paradise?)

It’s not even February (typical burning season) yet I’m already housebound due to coughing. When I checked on Asian air quality forecast to see about any possiblities of escaping the boredom, it was quite apparent what with all the oranges and reds, it’s not looking good for me.

A Crisis in Northern Thailand

Orange: 101-150 Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups
Red: 151-200 Unhealthy

For 2016 the powers that be ‘officially’ started the burning in early January. The changes were announced in the New Burning Schedule Ordered in an Attempt to Tackle Smoke Issue.

  • 1–10 Jan: 9.00am – 3.00pm: Doi Tao, Mae Taeng, Mae Wang, Doi Saket, Hod
  • 5–15 Jan: 9.00am – 3.00pm: San Pa Tong, Chom Thong, Sameng, Wiang Haeng
  • 11–20 Jan: 9.00am – 3.00pm: Mae Jam, Mae On, Phrao, Fang
  • 16–23 Jan: 9.00am – 3.00pm: Om Koi, Chia Prakarn, Kanlayaniwattana
  • 26 Jan– 5 Feb: 9.00am – 3.00pm: Doi Lo, San Sai, Muang Chiang Mai, Chiang Dao
  • 6–16 Feb: 9.00am – 3.00pm: Hang Dong, Saraphi, Sankampaeng, Mae Rim, Mae Ai

From what I’ve know, not many are following the schedule set out by the governor. But if caught will any be prosecuted? Only a handful were charged during the recent disaster in 2015.

Here are two posts on the subject from last season. One by me (where I was still struggling to keep a positive outlook), and one by Hugh Leong walking you through useful vocabulary.

Chiang mai Burning: Could You Survive Thailand’s Polluted North?
Thai Language Thai Culture: Breathing in Chiang Mai

Chiang mai smog

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Chiang mai Burning: Could You Survive Thailand’s Polluted North?

Chiang mai Burning

Would you even WANT to survive Thailand’s polluted North? …

Until yesterday I was having serious doubts about my ability to stick it out in Chiang mai during the burning season. Last year wasn’t too bad, but this year, along with thousands of others, I’m suffering.

The Nation: All-out efforts to fight smog (cough cough)…the haze crisis in the North, which threatens to be the worst in recent history, with air pollution in some parts of Chiang Ri province already three times beyond safety limits.

Every year the government publishes press releases on their meetings where they talk talk talk about cleaning up the air in North Thailand. Good grief all – it’s not rocket science, just quit burning already! Because of the very real health consequences, other countries outlawed open burning yaks ages ago. That’s right. There is a solution to this seasonal mess.

Yeah. I’m miffed. And Thais should be too. I went from gushing about Chiang mai and wanting to retire here, to wondering how quickly I could leave.

Asian Correspondent: Northern Thailand smothers under blanket of haze: Flights were turned away from Chiang Mai International Airport this week as Northern Thailand’s haze crisis deepened. ‘The Nation’ reported Tuesday that at least four pilots decided not to land their planes Monday as visibility was reduced to 800 meters due to the persistent smog.

For the past three weeks, due to a lack of being able to breath, I’ve been mostly housebound. You see, I’m asthmatic, but not seriously so (and I pity Northern Thais who are). My grandmother on my father’s side is though. She died of emphysema young, in her late 60’s. My father and older brother are also serious asthmatics (when I was growing up it was nothing to have an ambulance come and take my older sibling away). But get me around cigarette smoke (even on a walk by) and I’m puking, then coughing up gunk the long night long. Lovely.

What I’ve done to survive the burning North…

Because last year wasn’t too bad I started out ignoring the burning this year. Big mistake. Before I knew it my lungs were compressed, I was suffering from headaches, intermittent coughing kept me awake throughout the night, and the lack of oxygen replaced my energy with sore muscles.

As I wasn’t in a position to hightail it out of here for months at a time I needed to find a doable solution. And fast.

Thai Language ConnectorsChris and Angela, in How to Deal with Chiang Mai’s Smoky Season suggested a N95 grade mask (shown in the banner above) from HomePro. It works fine for running around, and along with hepa-filters in the car, on a good day I can get to the grocery store and back.

I already had three air cleaners (one from Bangkok and two bought last year) ranging from 10,000 to 40,000 baht. This year they were not enough. Worried, the man of the house found one that actually works, the Toshiba Air Purifier CAF-G50(P). And while 15,000 baht might sound expensive, it doesn’t need expensive filters (as does the 40 thou baht version) and does an amazing job of clearing the air. Live and learn.

Infact, the Toshiba is the real reason why I’m writing this post – I wanted to share my positive experiences with others who are also suffering due to the burning this year. Here’s what happened…

Several days ago the electric went out and I forgot to reset the Toshiba. A few (three?) hours later I was in serious trouble with my breathing. I became lethargic, my lungs were again restricted with the building pressure in my chest, and coughing was full-on. All it took to recover was to put the Toshiba on its Turbo setting. Six hours later the light went from red (dirty) to green (clean) and I could breath freely again. Relief!

Then just yesterday the Toshiba got switched to low (there be gremlins in my house). Once again I was in distress, only this time to the point of having a serious discussion about being hospitalised. Luckily I noticed the errant settings and flipped them to high again. Three hours later the light was back to green and I could breath. Problem solved.

I’m now confident about staying longer in Thailand’s polluted North. Only next year, I’ll get an additional Toshiba so’s I can live upstairs as well. Sleeping on the sofa hasn’t been too bad all these weeks but I miss my comfy bed.

Anyway, as I need to come up with a closing paragraph I’ll state what now seems to me to be the obvious. If you can’t leave the north of Thailand during burning season then there are few (logical) tips to follow: Stay inside as much as you can, wear a N95 grade mask when outside, cover your ACs (house and car) with Hepa filters, and buy an air cleaner with a known track record. And good luck!

Note: for useful vocabulary, phrases, and audio about the burning North, go to Hugh Leong’s post: Thai Language Thai Culture: Breathing in Chiang Mai. I took the video and photos used in the post just last week on a rare trip out of the house (it was the least I could do).

Thai Language Connectors

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Thai Language Thai Culture: Breathing in Chiang Mai

Thai Language

Breathing in Chiang Mai…

If you live anywhere in or near northern Thailand you probably can’t get the smog out of your head – both physically and figuratively. I live about ½ kilometer from the base of Doi Pui – Doi Suthep National park. Today I can’t see the mountains less than 500 meters away. This week four airplanes were diverted from Chiang Mai International Airport because of limited visibility.

And now I’ve had my first head cold here in almost 10 years. Is it a co-inky-dink that it has happened just as the smog rolled in?

I don’t go into town much unless I have some business to take care of. Yesterday we did the paperwork to get our tax refund for the last three years. That’s the good news. The bad news is I was thinking too much about the bad visibility as I was driving that I missed my turn to the bank.

The air pollution is as bad as I have seen it in many years (three times beyond the safety limits in nearby Chiang rai). It has me almost thinking about a move to Beijing.

Thai Language

With all this going on we thought it might be a good time to work on Thai vocabulary to describe the current situation. After, we’ll construct Thai dialogs using the vocabulary, just in case you want to talk with a Thai friend and you are like me and it is the main topic on your mind.

Thai vocabulary for breathing (or not) in Chiang mai…

Pollution
มลพิษ /mon-​lá-​pít/ (พิษ = poison)
or
มลภาวะเป็นพิษ /mon-​paa-​wá-​bpen-​pít/ (ภาวะ = a condition of being poisoned)


Air pollution
มลพิษทางอากาศ /mon-​pít taang aa-gàat/ (อากาศ = air)


Water pollution
มลพิษทางน้ำ /mon-​pít taang náam/ (น้ำ = water)


Smog
หมอกควัน /mòk-​kwan/ (หมอก = fog, mist; ควัน = smoke)
also
ควันพิษ /kwan-​pít/ (poison smoke)


The English word “smog” is a combination of “smoke” and “fog”. Thai does something similar.

Mask (nowadays ubiquitous)
หน้ากาก /nâa-​gàak/
also
หน้ากากอนามัย /nâa-​gàak à-​naa-​mai/ (อนามัย = hygiene)


Lung
ปอด /bpòt/


Lung disease
โรคปอด /rôhk bpòt/


Asthma
โรคหอบหืด /rôhk-​hòp-​hèut/
or
หืด /hèut/


Allergy
โรคภูมิแพ้ /rôhk-​poom-​páe/ (to have an allergy)
or
แพ้ /​páe/ (to be allergic to something)


Cough
ไอ /ai/


Phlegm
เสลด /sà-​lèet/
or
เสมหะ /săym-hà/


Burn
เผาผลาญ /păo-plăan/
or
เผา /păo/


Garbage
ขยะ /kà-​yà/


To burn garbage
เผาขยะ /păo kà-​yà/


Fields (rice)
ทุ่งนา /tûng-​naa/


To burn the rice fields.
เผาทุ่งนา /păo tûng-​naa/


Forests
ป่า /bpàa/


To burn the forest.
เผาป่า /păo bpàa/


And here’s some phrases for burning in Chiang mai…

Let’s use what we have learned. At least it will be somewhat cathartic.

A: How’s the weather today in Chiang Mai?
วันนี้อากาศเชียงใหม่เป็นยังไง
wan née aa-gàat chiang-mài bpen yang ngai


B: The smog is really bad.
หมอกควันไม่ดีจริงๆ
mòk kwan mâi dee jing jing


A: What causes all that smog?
หมอกควันมีสาเหตุอะไรบ้าง
mòk kwan mee săa-hàyt a-rai bâang


B: They are burning the fields, and garbage, and the forests.
พวกเขาเผาทุ่งนา เผาขยะ และ เผาป่า
pûak-kăo-păo-tûng-naa păo-kà-yà láe păo bpàa


A: Are people getting sick from the pollution?
มลพิษทำให้คนไม่สบายหรือ
mon-pít tam hâi kon mâi sà-baai rĕu


B: Yes, especially people with lung disease, asthma, and allergies.
ครับ โดยเฉพาะคนที่เป็น โรคปอด โรคหอบหืด และ โรคภูมิแพ้
kráp doi chà-pór kon têe bpen rôhk-bpòt rôhk hòp hèut láe rôhk poom páe


They will cough and have phlegm in their lungs. It’s best to wear a mask.
เขาจะไอ และ มี เสมหะ ในปอด ใส่หน้ากากดีกว่า
kăo jà ai láe mee săym-hà nai bpòt sài nâa gàak dee gwàa


There’s too much burning in Chiang mai!…

So here is my plan. I’m thinking of taking that tax return that we just got and buying two tickets to Bali and then taking one really, really deep breath. And pray for rain.

But before I go, here’s an iOS app by Thailand’s Pollution Control Department: Air4Thai. And if you are like me and don’t use apps, here’s a useful website: City Hall, Chiangmai Air Pollution: Real-time Air Quality Index (AQI).

Breathing in Chiang mai audo download: 1.2mg zip
Note: The audio files are for personal use only.

Hugh Leong
Retire 2 Thailand
Retire 2 Thailand: Blog
eBooks in Thailand
Thai Vocabulary in the News

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