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Smoke and Smog – A solution

This year the pollution for the annual burning season, which runs from February to April, has been the worst in memory. For many days the smog levels from farmers deliberately starting forest fires have significantly exceeded the safe levels of ‘safe limit’ of 120 µg/m3 and for much of the last two months. Despite promises of action and a clampdown, the Thai authorities have seemed hitherto powerless to stop the annual slash and burn activities of the hill dwellers. Indeed, they have tried to blame the problem on neighbouring countries like Burma, where slash and burn techniques are also widely used.

Chiang Mai Smog
Terrible Smog in Chiang Mai

The smog has also been a cause for major concern at hospitals with large numbers of people seeking treatments for respiratory disorders. many of the cities ex-pat community choose this time of year to leave town and travel to avoid the pollution.

But at last it seems a solution is on hand. Following discussions with local people and political groups the ministry responsible for solving the problem has come up with a novel approach which, subject to agreement and appropriate budget being put in place, should be ready for the 2057 season. The centerpoint of the plan is to capitalise on one of Thailand’s, other problems: excess water and flooding. to solve another. In the dry season, large amounts of water are released from the regions dams to provide downstream irrigation and empty the reservoirs ahead of the next rainy season. This water release could generate significant quantities of electricity but much of this is not used as this is still a low demand season.

The plan is to use converted wind turbines, powered by this excess electricity and located along mountain tops along the border with Burma, to simply blow the smoke out of Thailand. A very simple solution which, will in turn, help convince Thailand’s neighbours to end slash and burn practices. Ministry spokesmen Mr Ben Padlom said, “the estimated cost of the scheme will be only 5 billion Baht and would involve 250 turbines being erected in mountain locations”. However, the scheme has already met with opposition from local opium growers who say this scheme will encroach on their traditional farmlands and may effect profitability.

Giant Fans
What the giant fans are expected to look like

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