A reader forwards the below. It was a Letter to the Editor in the Bangkok Post. As the reader states “Some parallels. Good we have sea breezes here.”
Living in Chiang Mai these last two months has been a bit like living in a garage with the car engine running, with the front port closed and with only small windows open high up for ventilation.
I use the garage analogy because it seems fashionable to blame the wood smoke from burning of forests and fields, to blame the Burmese and the Lao, the minorities and the farmers, rather than another major culprit for Chiang Mai’s dreadful air _ the dust and toxic gases created by traffic.
Developers have been and remain busy along the new middle and outer ring roads, tearing up rice fields in one place and filling them in another for housing projects, factories and shopping malls. A belt of new suburbia girds the city, and its inhabitants almost totally depend on the use of private motor transportation.
No one has yet been able to overcome the red songthaeo operators and the shadowy cooperative that organises them; apparently its members do not even have to have their vehicles checked.
This group and the powerful figures behind them present a major obstacle to setting up a rational bus system.
Chiang Mai has no organised mass transit bus system. No government has ever tried to set up an alternative to the use of private cars by massively funding a transportation agency and ensuring it has the powers to cut through the morass of different agencies and areas of administration within the city and the surrounding districts.
Thus, attempts to reduce traffic flow into the city and consequentially toxic emissions, have been almost non-existent, and the City Planning Department officials can only propose more road widening.
Micro-particles (particles of less than 10 microns) thought to seriously affect respiratory health, are increasingly reaching levels over 4 times the European safety standard of 50 microgrammes (per cubic metre/24 hours; the Thai standard is 120mg) during the dry and hot seasons.
With tens of thousands confirmed sick with respiratory problems and the numbers thought to be suffering from breathing ailments in excess of 100,000 people, and with lung cancer running at rates more than twice that of Bangkok and increasing, the medical facts speak for themselves.
Yes, the rains should come, the winds should blow, and for another season government officials will announce that p-10 levels are below the Thai safety standard.
Housing estate billboards portraying a dreamy green suburbia surrounded by mountains will continue to give public face to the ever growing lie.
The truth is breathing on Chiang Mai’s streets and arterial roads is unpleasant at most times year-round. For months on end you can barely see the mountains from the ring roads, if at all.
From sometime in January till whenever the rains start, the air in the city and much of the valley becomes extremely unhealthy, if not life-threatening. And it’s getting worse every year.
The problem of air pollution from motorcycles in Hua Hin was addressed in 1996 by John Laird in the Observer and reprinted as One Man’s Opinion on The Hua Hin Pages at that time. The article by Laird remains the page with the most external links on The Hua Hin Pages. Things haven’t improved in 13 years.
h/t to the reader