Thailand Enhances Measures Against Forest Fires, Encroachment Increases in Laos

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Thailand Enhances Measures Against Forest Fires, Encroachment Increases in Laos
Deforestation. (Photo: Mongobay.com)

Thailand has implemented proactive measures to combat and prevent forest fires particularly in the north as shown by a 79 percent decrease in hot spots, the Nation Thailand reported.

In Thailand’s northern region, where air pollution has been a persistent concern during the dry season, authorities are implementing measures to mitigate the impact of forest fires and agricultural burning on air quality. Last year, over 1 million people in Thailand fell ill due to worsening air pollution, prompting urgent action from officials.

In Chiang Mai, one of the worst affected areas, authorities advised residents to stay indoors and work remotely as air pollution levels reached hazardous levels. The main contributors to the alarming smog were identified as smoke from forest fires and crop burning, which blanketed the province in a thick haze.

To combat the rise in forest fires, the Thai government directed the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation to step up efforts in preventing such incidents. As a result, the number of hotspots detected in Chiang Mai and Lamphun forests has decreased significantly, with only 67 hotspots reported since 1 January, marking a remarkable 79 percent drop compared to the previous year, 

Kritsayam Kongsatree, director of the Protected Areas Regional Office 16, attributed the decline in hotspots to the proactive measures implemented by the office. With oversight of 19 forests covering 1.25 million hectares in Chiang Mai and Lamphun Province, the office has deployed 1,290 officials to prevent forest fires, with plans to increase manpower during the dry season.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Laos,  the threat of deforestation looms large as the country struggles to preserve its forested areas. Despite efforts to combat forest fires resulting from slash-and-burn agriculture, deforestation rates have soared, with only 40 percent of forested areas remaining in 2023, down from 70 percent since 1940.

Infrastructure development, industrial expansion, agricultural expansion, and rampant logging are among the factors driving deforestation in Laos. During a meeting with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry on 23 January, Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone expressed concern over the lack of support from local communities for forest management initiatives, highlighting the need for collaborative efforts to protect the country’s forests.

According to investigations by the Department of Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in Laos, encroachment of protected forest land in the country in 2023 reached an estimated 18,918 hectares.

In response to these challenges, the Ministry pledged to ramp up efforts to protect forested areas in remote regions of the country. The government aims to enhance collaboration with local communities and implement stricter measures to curb deforestation and preserve the natural environment.