Chiang Mai joins Global Climate Strike on its most polluted day.

Students and international environmentalists have joined a strike in Chiang Mai to show solidarity with the Fridays for Future movement. Just before the strike, Chiang Mai became one of the worst cities in the world in terms of air quality. The movement has been pressuring the Chiang Mai Governor to address air pollution, but the administration has still not taken serious action.

Chiang Mai's Climate Strike
Source: Aidan McAuliffe

On Friday 15 March, the most polluted day of the week according to the Air Quality Index (AQI), students from Chiang Mai and Maejo universities, wearing anti-PM2.5 masks, gathered in front of Chiang Mai University with a “Chiangmai Climate Strike” sign. The group is demanding serious action on air pollution and an improvement in the standard of living.



Chiang Mai's AQI on Friday for Future
Source: Air Quality Index

They also showed signs in support of Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swede who inspired the Global Climate Strike. The campaign was in solidarity with Fridays for Future, a global student campaign organized in 123 countries with 2052 events. International participants joined the movement demanding serious action for clean air.

On the same day, Thais and Singaporeans donated 3,600 respiratory masks for children through the RADION International Foundation. Before Fridays for Future, the students worshipped at a local shrine in protest, implying that even superstition is more effective than the current administration.

The students worshipped at a local shrine in protest

According to the AQI, which measures PM2.5, PM10, carbon dioxide and other air pollutants, Chiang Mai was the most polluted city in the world on Tuesday 13 March. Many posted pictures of Chiang Mai in smog, a view that saddened the nation. According to Pollution Watch Thailand, “air pollution is costing long-term residents in Chiang Mai and certain areas of the north an average 4 years of their life span.”

Chiang Mai in smog, a view that saddened the nation.
Source: Rungsrit Kanjanavanit

On 13 March, the environmental group handed a letter to Supachai Iamsuwan, the Governor, calling for effective action. Rungsrit Kanjanavanit, a professor of cardiology and environmental activist, joined the movement in pressuring the Governor by posting on Facebook a cartoon picture of ‘a missing person.’

In response, the Governor declared a number of measures including a two-month ban on burning, vehicle checks, factory inspections, planting trees, and disseminating self-care information, but some doubted if this would be effective. On 16 March, the group also tried to hand a letter to the Governor again demanding preventive measures, not passive reaction.

PM2.5 in Bangkok reached world-beating unhealthy levels 10 weeks ago, causing the government to close 432 schools temporarily. To address the problem, the government did nothing but spray water into the air. As of today, Chiang Mai remains unhealthy according to the AQI.