Slash & Burn (*warning* Graphic Images )- The Raping Of The Countryside!

Discussion in 'Northern Thailand - General Discussion Forum' started by ZCM, May 9, 2016.

  1. ZCM

    ZCM Active Member

    Some of you may already know that last night Doi Suthep was on fire. A scary vision on my doorstep as I live at the foot of the mountain.
    There was talk of possible evacuation of my area and surrounding areas due to the fire spreading. But thankfully, due to a strong firefighting force, the fire was finally brought under control.
    Although the cause is not officially declared yet it is strongly suspected that local farmers were burning for one of two reasons; the harvesting of some coveted mushrooms and for easy hunting of animals. A lazy and selfish way to get a harvest and catch some food. Entire areas burnt to the ground and creatures burnt alive.
    This morning, the aftermath, images started to pop up on the net of the resulting damage.
    Four photos that were posted up particularly affected me. It is one thing to see images of fire in the distance, but quite another when you see the damage in its wake.
    Upon seeing these images I was seething and shaking with upset and anger.
    Most of us focus on the haze the practices cause, but forget about the horrific deaths it causes. Innocent creatures burnt alive.
    Im sorry if I sound overly dramatic but part of what I love about riding a motorbike is the ability for it to take me to places of wonder.
    I truly love nature and all of its weird bugs, flora and fauna. It pains me to think of what these creatures endured last night.
    I feel an intense anger directed at the culprits, because they are obviously aware of what they are doing and the resulting damage, but do not care.
    They repeat the process over and over because they are selfish and lazy to consider any other way.
    Yesterday I was out and about a little and filmed footage of the mountain on fire at two separate times, once at 5:45pm and a second time at 7:30pm. The amber and red fire coming from the mountain last night looked like a long dragon rising up. Beautiful and frightening and sad.

    Just two week ago, after returning from a ride to Pai and seeing the mountains still on fire there, I attended a rally at the Three Kings Monument after getting in. The rally was attended by a few hundred people but still not really a big enough turn out. It was a campaign to try end the burning practices known as "Bye Bye Smog". At times these things seem to be in vain, because nothing ever changes. It is my tenth year of seeing burning in the north and I have doubts of ever seeing this brought to an end..but I still hope.
    I hear many other foreigners make excuses to cop out of having an opinion on this. Saying things like "its tradition" or "its not your country" if i shouldnt have an opinion on something which affects my health, the health of those i care about, and which has a devastating impact on the nature that i love. I dont agree. I think we are duty bound to step up and say something when we believe strongly that something isnt right. I am not Thai but I love this country like my own. Why shouldnt I have an opinion on it?!

    What is your opinion? Do you have one or do you just stay out of it?

    Im currently trying to remove the images from my mind of the terror that must have gone on last night in the jungle of the mountain. Its not an easy task, i guess i am a little overly sensitive to it..but it truly breaks my heart.

    I have written a lot more details on my blog, and i hope no one thinks this is merely a blog promotion of some sort. It isnt. It just makes more sense for anyone who is interested to carry on reading everything via my link. *THAI TALE* – (non-moto story) – Northern Territory Haze. “Burning Season”. SLASH & BURN farming. – SITE UNDER UPGRADE – BACK ONLINE SOON!

    Thanks for reading..
    Last edited: May 12, 2016
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  3. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer

    This is awful....heartbreaking :( Wish I didn't see these pictures.
  4. ZCM

    ZCM Active Member

    Sorry to bring you sadness Goran, just feel it is too important not to share. Very sad indeed i know. :(
  5. Ian Bungy

    Ian Bungy Ol'Timer

    Any of the Arseholes Caught lighting these Fires should be set alight themselves! Ignorant Idiots! Every Year the Same and every Year Big Government Promises and Nothing Happens! I have seen the Army doing it as well as all the Village Idiots. They all do it! Brainwashed Ignorance! Amazing when the Air is that Bad already that the Idiots still light Fires! I have seen them stop on the side of the Road, Light the Fire and Ride off again! For absolutely No Reason and I don't Buy all the Bullshit about Mushrooms! I have been in Chiang Mai for 14 Years and have yet to see any significant sign of Mushrooms growing anywhere before or after Burning or Rain! An Old Wives Tail I believe it is just a simple Case of Ignorant Uneducated Selfish People doing what they have always done! Not willing to think outside of the Box or change their ways! As a Friend once said there is only One thing they Understand and that is Violence Ha Ha!
    David Learmonth and Goran Phuket like this.
  6. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    There's an old interesting article in the Bangkok Post from 2015 here
    Bangkok Post article

    Note this point: some villages can earn as much as a million baht from a single season from the wild mushrroms.

    A burning desire for wealth.

    As the seasonal smoke worsens, the forest fires caused by a lucrative mushroom trade and other foragers are only exaggerating the problem

    Published: 29/03/2015 at 06:55 AM
    Newspaper section: Spectrum

    Every day, Sai makes her way to a local fresh market in Chiang Mai’s Omkoi district, where she runs a small stand selling vegetables. For much of the year, it’s the 58-year-old’s sole source of income, bringing in less than 300 baht per day.
    But once a year, as the annual haze of the dry season settles over the North, Sai’s revenue receives a boost.
    “I go into the forest around my village and collect red ant eggs,” Sai said.
    Finding the eggs, a northern culinary delicacy, is not easy, which helps explain their high price. On a good day, Sai can earn up to 1,500 baht.
    But her methods of collection can have unintended, and potentially devastating, consequences.
    When Sai finds an ant nest, she places it on a threshing basket, which she shakes until the red ants flee and only the eggs remain.
    “But sometimes it is too slow to shake and wait, so I throw some dry leaves into the basket and light them on fire to scare the ants away,” she explained.
    When she’s done, she intentionally throws the burning leaves onto the ground and covers them with dried forest litter before walking away.
    Sai said she is fully aware that a fire will follow, but she doesn’t care.
    After all, something even more valuable than ant eggs is lurking beneath the foliage on the forest floor.

    “All I really want is hed thob,” Sai told Spectrum, using the northern term for hed pho, a small, bulbous black mushroom which grows only during the dry season.
    Locating the prized fungus is a difficult but highly lucrative endeavour — some villages can earn as much as a million baht from a single season.
    The mushrooms grow on the forest floor and are difficult to spot beneath the thick layer of dried leaves which blanket it. The easiest way to find them is to simply set fire to the undergrowth, then search the cleared ground.
    “What else can we do? The easiest way to make money quickly is to burn the unwanted foliage to get what I want,” Sai said.
    While harvesting the mushrooms only requires burning a small patch of land, Sai admitted the fires can easily grow out of control, contributing to the perennial haze problem which afflicts residents of the North.
    If that happens, Sai said she and other mushroom foragers would not report the blaze to the local fire department, as doing so would lead to their arrest.
    Usually, she just runs away, hoping the fire will die out naturally. Sometimes, it doesn’t.
    Besides the million-baht mushroom, many villagers like Sai believe that fire can help stimulate the growth of certain types of vegetables, such as pak wan or star gooseberry, bamboo shoots and other mushroom varieties.
    “It’s only once a year that these types of plants grow, and it’s the only time of the year that I can actually make money,” Sai said.

    Standard fare: Vendors selling wild mushrooms in the North typically make less money the rest of the year.

    The haze crisis that grips large swathes of the North during the dry season — commonly called the “burning season” by local farmers — is worsening each year, bringing with it a raft of health and economic problems.
    The Fire Control Division, part of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP), has long imposed a ban on all burning as it looks for ways to solve the problem. Rewards of 5,000 baht are also offered to anyone who can provide information leading to an arrest.
    According to statistics from the Fire Control Division, the three provinces that bear the brunt of the problems are Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son and Lampang.
    The data also shows that the leading cause of forest fires in those provinces was locals hunting for mushrooms. In Chiang Mai it happened 754 times, in Mae Hong Son 84 times, and in Lampang 216 times.
    But Decho Chaitup, the manager of the Chiang Mai-based Sustainable Development Foundation, said burning for mushrooms and other plants is only a tiny part of the bigger picture, and that the official data is flawed.
    He said there are 2,066 villages in Chiang Mai province, about 1,600 of which are situated in forest areas. But he said burning for mushrooms contributed to less than 18% of the North’s haze problem.
    Mr Decho identified four primary causes of haze: forest fires, agricultural burn-off, pollution from cities and industrial estates, and similar problems happening in bordering countries like Laos and Myanmar.
    “Quantity wise, forest fires are the number one cause of haze,” Mr Decho said. “Among all 10 million rai of land in Chiang Mai, there are four million rai of dry deciduous dipterocarp forest, which is prone to fire.
    “The agricultural industry takes up only 20% of that overall land.”
    Hunting is also a problem, as hunters often burn forest land to clear the way for the creation of open grass fields, which attract wildlife and allow animals to be trapped or killed more easily.

    The Fire Control Division said 9,606 rai of forest land in Chiang Mai was burned in the first three months of this year. But according to research conducted by Mr Decho and an academic from Chiang Mai University, that figure is closer to three million rai.

    “The official number recorded by Fire Control Department is based on the cases for which arrests are made. Then they use that record to determine the cause of haze, which is wrong,” Mr Decho said.

    Though forest fires occur naturally, many researchers believe they are being increasingly driven by human activity. Assistant professor Watcharapong Tachajapong, a lecturer and researcher from the Faculty of Engineering at Chiang Mai University, said many fires are started by the crop rotation methods local farmers employ.
    “Many locals rotate their farm plots, which means they have to burn plots each year to get them ready for the next harvest,” Mr Watcharapong said. “The small embers from those farmland fires can often fly out and fall into the forest.”
    With a zero burning policy, the forest floor collects up to two tonnes of dry leaves and other litter per rai per year — if a fire does break out, it will be almost impossible to contain.
    “When a fire eventually does come through and burns all those leaves, the temperature might be high enough to kill all of the trees,” Mr Watcharapong said.
    He warned the effects of climate change would likely worsen the situation in coming years, saying he has noticed changing wind patterns in recent years.
    Flames in the trees: Without a backburning policy, up to two tonnes of leaf litter can gather on each rai of land each year, meaning any fire that starts has the potential to spread quickly.

    While the law forbids anyone from burning forest land, for members of the Karen communities and other hill tribes which populate the mountains around Chiang Mai, belief is more important than legislation.

    Jonni Lukusao, a 72-year-old Karen man who lives in Chiang Mai’s Samoeng district, told Spectrum that tradition teaches his people to bond with nature from the moment they are born.
    “We Karen believe that the spirit comes from the seed of the tree. So when a child is born, the parents will have to cut part of the umbilical cord and tie it to a tree,” he said. “No one can then harm that tree since it has a holy spirit and spiritual belief.
    “We live with the forest, we eat food from the forest, when we die we return our bodies to the forest. How can anyone accuse us of burning the forest to find mushrooms and sell them for money?”
    But Mr Jonni said that since government-backed logging companies invaded the forest and cut down the spiritual trees several decades ago, local beliefs began to slowly die out.
    The villagers’ reliance on the land has slowly waned, as members of the younger generation move to towns and cities for jobs, returning home only occasionally. Spiritual belief has little value in their increasingly capitalist world, and Mr Jonni said younger people are now more willing to burn down forest land in a short-sighted pursuit of money.

    “Preu”, a Hmong man from Nan province, is working hard to save money for the things he wants to buy.
    “I want to have a motorcycle to ride around on, I want to buy a new mobile phone to keep in touch with friends, and I want to have a lot of money to do the things I want,” he said.

    Preu employs slash and burn methods of crop rotation, and also hunts for mushrooms and other plants in the forest. He said he is willing to remove anything from the forest that will earn him the cash he needs for consumer goods.
    “I won’t lie and say that I haven’t burned the forest,” he said. “I intended to burn only small areas just to find mushrooms. I would put 10 incense sticks on the ground and walk away.
    “One time there was a big fire which took many days to die out.”

    “Da”, a Hmong woman, also uses the fiery farming methods.
    She said the technique saves a lot of time and money. For many, it is the only economically viable way of farming in the steep, mountainous terrain.
    “Not only I can get rid of the leftover trees from that plot of land, I can also get free high quality fertiliser to use on my next crops,” she said.

    People who live in forest areas often protect the land as part of their home, and have been forced to manage fires long before government departments stepped in to take over.
    But this connection has slowly been severed as ethnic groups have been forced from their traditional lands.
    Prayong Doklamyai, the vice-president of the Northern Development Foundation, explained that 100 years ago the government granted logging concessions to Thai and foreign companies in the North's mountainous areas.
    “When local tribal people saw how the government allowed these companies to come to their village and cut down the trees they had tried to protect for generations, they felt as though they had been betrayed,” Mr Prayong said.
    When all the large trees were gone, the concessions stopped. But the locals lost faith and felt like the forests had been opened up for exploitation. Some no longer wanted to protect the forest.
    In 1985, a law was enacted that required 25% of all land in the country to be protected forest, while 15% was allocated as “productive forest” that was open for commercial logging and agriculture.
    Many hill tribes lived within the 25% designated as protected areas, and were forced to move.
    But many hill tribes who remain in the forest still adhere to the traditions of their ancestors, which includes controlled burning of the forest.
    Mr Prayong said they were being used as scapegoats for the haze problem.
    “The DNP used the law against local people’s lifestyles, and has blamed them for the forest fires that have happened for generations,” Mr Prayong said. “They basically can’t do anything to the forest. Even to pick up leaves or allow their animals to eat the grass would be against the law.”

    Mr Prayong said burning can have benefits, so long as it is controlled. He said he had conducted extensive research which showed controlled backburning had little effect on the environment but could help keep haze under control.
    “I ran a test by burning 1,000 rai of land inside a 10,000-rai plot. It turned out that the other trees on the plot absorbed 100% of the carbon dioxide created from the burning,” Mr Prayong claimed.
    “If we allow the local community to manage the problem by themselves legally, forest fires will no longer exist.”
    Chiang Mai University's Mr Watcharapong has been conducting research in Chomthong district of Chiang Mai, which covers Doi Inthanon and the Op Luang area, since 2009.
    He explained that Thailand has adopted its fire management system from Western countries, imposing a blanket ban on all burning activities. But it has failed to implement Western strategies of effective backburning and fire containment.
    Locals who abide by the no-burn law say that when a natural fire forest does occur after years of no burning, it arrives with far greater ferocity.
    “They told me the fire was big and it was unstoppable. This type of fire can do more harm to the trees and the ecology,” Mr Watcharapong said.
    He said that when no burning activity occurs, dry leaves and other forest litter will pile up higher, providing an ideal environment for fires.
    Mr Watcharapong ran an experiment in a village to see whether backburning operations before the dry season could help keep the problem under control.
    “Early burning works very well, because we burn the forest when there are less dry leaves. Then when the dry season does arrive, there will be less fuel for the fires to consume, so there is less smoke and less damage,” Mr Watcharapong said.
    If this approach were implemented across the North, and in neighbouring countries, Mr Watcharapong said the haze problem would disappear entirely within five years.
    Mr Decho added that pre-dry season burning not only creates less smoke, but also still enables locals to find mushrooms and other plants without the risk of starting a large fire.
    “What is more difficult to manage is people’s attitudes,” he said. “If officials and people in the cities try to understand the nature of forest fires and locals’ lifestyles, they will then realise that controlled burning is necessary.
  7. ZCM

    ZCM Active Member

    I read that article before David, and one of the few articles I have read that give some insight.
    "IF" it really is all about the mushrooms, then I of course understand why villagers would burn because of the income they stand to make.
    However, it absolutely doesnt make it ok of course.
    The other issue is, from what I gather, that burning doesnt guarantee a harvest either, if the rains dont come soon enough.
    Not sure how correct that is. Which makes me realise that we are never really given clear answers to why this burning is taking place either.
    There is also a side line of easy capture of animals for food, and apparently the red ant eggs ( I have a photo actually from a few years back of a hilltribe lady getting these ant eggs..she even offered me to try them.)
    These villagers obviously want income and this is an easy way to get a large amount of cash.
    So..what can the solution be?
    That the selling of these mushrooms becomes illegal too? But then you end up with a more lucrative black market for them.
    I dont know what can be done but it has to stop.
    However, these are people that believe the gamble of being caught is worth the risk, so we are up against people who dont care about the consequences.
    Change the consequences? Create an incentive?
    After so many years of promised action..why has no solution come up...?
  8. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

    The haze is certainly is a drag and sad for the wildlife. I thought a month ago that there was noticeably less local burning around Chiang Rai. But since the start of May, seeing night time burning over the mountains. It is usually about over by this time of year. Need the rain desperately....
  9. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    There is not going to be a magic wand that solves a problem which is the result of practices used by generations of people & that is often exacerbated by climatic conditions.

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