I live inside the city – the South East corner of the moat that puts a square target at the center of the Chiang Mai, Thailand. There are highways outside of the moat that encircles it. You can get from one side to another in 20 minutes, unless you drive through the center and it will take double the time…why? TRAFFIC.
Chiang Mai is small…in size and in its communities, and it is infested with tourists, travelers, and nomads. Its population can charm and suffocate you.
I cannot blame the new and settled people who occupy this wonderful place. I cannot blame the famers on the outskirts, the rich, the poor, the Thais or the foreigners. It is all of us. There is litter and exhaust fumes sprinkled everywhere and this special time of year amplifies the air pollution.
Smokey season has been a dark winter infested with masks, staying indoors, phlegm in my throat, dizziness, headaches, lethargy…It is a gray fog that is literally suffocating us. The smokey season runs from December to the end of April.
Farmers burn crops, trash, debris, fields, and the forest during this time. For them, they have been doing it year after year for many years so why would they stop? It is hurting the environment and our lungs.
I can watch the sun rise and set each day because it is now a pink circle in the sky dulled by fog. The beautiful mountains that surround me are hidden by a creamy gray sky. Clouds and color exploding sunsets have now dissipated by the sinking smoke. When I look up, it is always gray.
Every day at my school we look at the Air Quality Index to determine how safe the air is for the children. If the AQI is too high, the students must stay indoors all day. My school has recently purchased air purifiers for each room. Kids and teachers come to school in masks.
We can eat fruits and vegetables and exercise to control our health, but we cannot change the air that we breathe.
In every place there is a season of darkness, discomfort, not being able to enjoy the outdoors and that is something I will accept, but air pollution can be reduced. There are new laws in Thailand this year to help tone down the poor air, but there is still a long road ahead.
I do not know that in 20 years I will have some disease because of my exposure to this air. For now, I have to live day to day. Everyone should be made aware of what me and the people who call Northern Thailand are experiencing right here and now.
Watch SMOKE: A Crisis in Northern Thailand for more information.