NORTHERN Mae Hong Son province will likely see an increase in forest fires this year with as many as 135 fire hotspots having been detected during Jan. 1-27, Naewna newspaper said today (Jan. 28).
The Forest Fire Control Centre said it is Mae La Noi district where most of the hotspots were seen, totalling 36, but this is outstripped by 77 detected in the national forest reserve.
Where air quality is concerned, the Zone One Environment and Pollution Control Office said today’s PM2.5 pollution level in Mueang Mae Hong Son reached 39 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m³) with 50 µg/m3 or higher considered poor air quality.
Across four northern provinces, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lamphun, Mae Hong Son, today’s PM2.5 level is between 39-88 µg/m³, which is a medium level to the point of starting to affect health.
Today 83 fire hotspots were detected with 38 being in Chiang Rai, 31 in Chiang Mai, five in Mae Hong Son and nine in Lamphun.
Mae Hong Son’s goal this year is to ensure no more than 9,378 forest fires are started and this has to be closely monitored to ascertain to what extent government agencies are able to control the problem.
The key issue is whether local people are cooperating with the authorities because it has been noticed that every year when an announcement of a crackdown on arsonists is issued, it only leads to an increase in the number of forest fires.
Moreover these fires are also difficult to put out because many of them occur on steep mountainside.
Mae Hong Son is also affected by the conflict between Myanmar’s junta troops and ethnic minority forces along the border as both sides resort to starting forest fires to see each other’s positions better.
Meanwhile a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report released on Thursday (Jan. 26) said opium poppy production in Myanmar ramped up dramatically following the 2021 military coup as political and economic turmoil drove farmers to cultivate the crop, according to an AFP report published by CNA.
The country’s economy has been paralysed following the military power grab in February 2021 and subsequent fighting between the junta and anti-coup rebels.
The potential output also shot up by nearly 90 percent compared with the previous year, to 790 tonnes.
The area of land used for opium poppy cultivation expanded by a third to just over 40,000ha in 2021-22 – the first full growing season since the coup.
The results show that there is a “significant expansion” of Myanmar’s opium economy, the UNODC report said.
Forest fires in Mae Hong Son. Photos: Naewna