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Thai Government Funds Fight Against Forest Fires, Pollution

On March 17, the Thai government disclosed plans to allocate 272.65 million baht from its central emergency fund, targeting the pressing challenges of forest fires and the rising PM2.5 pollution levels. This financial injection is part of a broader initiative to enhance firefighting capabilities and air quality management, especially in the northern regions of the country, which have been under scrutiny due to insufficient firefighting resources and the consequent deterioration of air quality.

Amid criticism from opposition members of parliament concerning the limited number of personnel dedicated to combatting forest fires, the government’s announcement addresses concerns over the adequacy of resources for forest conservation. Approximately 1,800 rangers are currently responsible for more than 9 million rai of protected and national forests in Chiang Mai, a task that becomes particularly daunting during the dry season. This period not only heightens the risk of forest fires, often ignited by local practices aimed at stimulating the growth of mushrooms and other marketable vegetation but also exacerbates the issue of air pollution.

Deputy Government Spokesperson Kenikar Oonjit clarified the government’s stance, noting that while the ranger force might be deemed adequate under normal circumstances, the dry season’s challenges necessitate augmented support. Consequently, the allocated funds are intended to recruit local villagers to aid in the surveillance and prevention of forest fires, thereby reinforcing the efforts to safeguard forested areas and improve air quality.

The distribution of the emergency fund will see the Forestry Department receive 109.946 million baht, with the remaining 162.7 million baht going to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation. This financial strategy is part of a comprehensive approach led by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin to combat air pollution—specifically targeting PM2.5 particles—not just in Chiang Mai, but across all 17 provinces in the northern region of Thailand. The initiative underscores the government’s commitment to environmental conservation and public health amidst escalating environmental challenges.

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