Worst Ever Air Pollution in Laos 2023

8 Apr , 2023  

Smog caused by the annual burning off of fields has hit all-time highs in 2023. The annual burn-off runs from Dec to April with March traditionally being the peak. From Jan to Feb large particles of ash fell from the sky and by March the particles below PM2.5 caused the air to become hazardous – it’s like living with thick smog for a month. It has put Laos as the most polluted country in the world.

Across Myanmar, China, Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos fields are burnt to reduce the stalk tops of sugar cane and rice stubble to prepare the fields for the next round of crops. There are also reports of forests being burned to make way for more crops.

The Thai Ministry of Agriculture last year banned this practice but farmers burn at night to get around this. In Laos, no such law exists.

Farmers cannot afford to switch technology or use more laborious methods that would affect burning. Often fields are steep and manual labour is the only option to clear land and burning is cheaper than employing labour. This is not helped as many are indebted to large agribusinesses due to falling prices and lesser yields. It is difficult to regulate as it affects people’s livelihoods. This year in Laos it is also thought with inflation at 41% farmers are clearing more land than usual in order to survive.

In Thailand over 2 million people have been hospitalized with breathing problems. There are no stats available for Laos. Thailand has now ordered all provincial governors to send teams to warn farmers to stop the burning or face prosecution.

The only positive of all this burning is amazing sunsets (if you can go outside to view them). We preferred to live with COVID-19.

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