21 May 2024

Forest fires have destroyed about 80 hectares of forest in the Doi Tung development project, in Thailand’s northern province of Chiang Rai, and worsened the air pollution in Mae Sai district, with the level of PM2.5 dust rising to 443 microns.

The fires started at about 3pm in Ban Pha Bue, one of several villages in the area of the Royally-sponsored Doi Tung development project in Mae Fah Luang sub-district, and quickly spread across firebreaks due to strong winds.

Officials from several local and provincial organisations, including the Pha Muang task force, and volunteers were mobilised to fight the fires, about 70% of which were brought under control before midnight. Fires are still raging in the eastern part of an economic forest area.

To prevent fires from reigniting, workers built more firebreaks and water trucks were dispatched to douse accessible forest areas with water, to increase humidity, and fires were ignited in inaccessible forest areas as a fire control technique.

Officials have admitted that they still do not know the cause of the forest fires yesterday adding, however, that 80 hectares of forest land in Doi Tung development project, which covers 14,685 hectares, have been destroyed.

Initiated by the late HRH the Princess Mother, Doi Tung development project was established in 1988, aiming to transform several villages in the Golden Triangle area from their dependence on opium cultivation and trafficking into communities with stable incomes from crops, food processing, handicrafts and tourism.

In Mae Sai district today (Thursday), the PM2.5 level in the atmosphere was measured at 443 microns at 6am, with average PM2.5 levels in the past 24 hours exceeding 200 microns, which is likely to increase later today.