Mae Kha – New Plan Misses the Point

Since the inception of activities in December 2009 when the newly elected Mayor Tessanai Buranapakorn failed to turn up at a tree planting ceremony to mark the inauguration of the Mae Kha Clean Up Campaign we have been reporting on developments such as progress,  which was also reported to a grand meeting in 2012 and backsliding in 2013 and again in 2013.

Now with another year gone by, including six months ago a newly unelected government with claims to bring fairness, end corruption and “return happiness” to Thailand, what can we report about Chiang Mai’s notoriously smelly Mae Kha Canal?

Sadly not a great deal on the positive side that can be readily seen. But if the Mae Kha has not been cleaned up, the same can not be said for the long time grubby engine of the Gum Hak Doi Suthep work truck.

2014-10-27 14.10.38 Happy Mechanic

While trucks are not particularly friendly to  the environment, our friendly part time mechanic and tour operator Khun Chang, has persuaded us of the virtue of installing an hydrolysis unit to improve fuel efficiency.

More about the truck below, but to return to the Mae Kha story, the past six months has seen a flurry of activity, which is documented in Thai on the Facebook pages of Dr Wasan Jompakdee formerly of Chiang Mai University.

Much of this has been ceremonial. However at this ceremony on 19th September 2014, to celebrate the diversion of some water from the Mae Daeng irrigation canal to flush out some of the stagnant water from Mae Kha, Gum Hak Doi Suthep brought just three trees to plant to ensure some concrete (other than sand, cement and steel reinforcing ) was had.

Mae Kha Ceremony

Clearly Dr Wasan has spent much time chewing the ears of Governor Suriya and the local military brass, just as he did with Mayor Tessanai four years back, and has persuaded them to join his campaign and attend large meetings of government officers and this Monday 10th November a public meeting attended by 300 invitees.

Dr Wasan is reported to have presented a one year plan to clean up the Mae Kha, however no details appear to have been posted on the internet (try searching Mahe Kha pollution ) and when asked via Facebook no answer was forth coming.

Community groups, some certainly many we cannot confirm, which has shown a consistent interest and organised activities to benefit the Mae Kha we not invited, unless one regards a Facebook posting on the morning of the event as an adequate invitation that is. The process appears remarkably similar to the notorious    “consultation” process over the defunct government’s highly unpopular Water Scheme, where Dr Wasan played a key part.

One person who did attend the meeting on Monday has reported that the Governor opened the meeting and announced his desire to have the whole creek lined with concrete, much to the horror of some in the audience. When asked about the question of slum housing beside and over the top of the Mae Kha we were informed that many of the government built “oppurtunity” flats, which in many respects are far superior to private developments remain unoccupied. If that be so and the apartments are in places easily accessible to the work and schools of the slum residents, their relocation could deliver some of the fairness and happiness Prime Minister Prayuth talks about, while allowing environmental, rather than concrete, restoration of the canal.

Pollution of the Mae Kha results from a failure of Chiang Mai to implement a comprehensive  sewerage a drainage plan which would capture major contaminants at source, remove the nutrient contamination  through the construction of wetlands and prevent flooding.

One retired academic, expert in fisheries, challenged a fatal flaw in the plan that there was no mention of the important concept of  “point source pollution” in the plan.  So in a year’s time, when you have a car cleaned, or dine at a greasy eatery, rest assured, the muck will still flow into a still stinking Mae Kha canal.

 

 

 

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Prayuth Government gets it wrong on transport

 

2013 saw 13 derailments on the northern railway line to Chiang Mai and in response the transport minister of the day ordered the line closed, all the track from Uttaradit to Chiang Mai relaid, and had the line reopened by December in the same year.

Yet the new government according to a news release cannot begin the nationwide project to lay double track until 2016 over a year away. Meanwhile it is pouring money into road expansion.

Warning - The roads Juggernaught cometh to Route 11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
The latest news on this front is the wildly extravagant road tunnel at the only main road T-junction on Chiang Mai’s Super Highway, and now the announcement of a dual carriageway extension of Nimmanhaemin Rd south to the gate of the Wing 41 Airbase.

No sign however that general access will be allowed through this sensitive area where commercial vehicles are excluded and only Chiang Mai residents who purchase a special pass are allowed to drive their motorcycles or cars enroute to the airport, Airport Central and beyond.

Returning to the issue of railway improvements, an essential feature will need to be the elimination of hundreds of road-rail level crossings, such as the one in the picture below. Here the SRT (State Railways of Thailand) chose instead to link the Airport Rail Link it runs with the MRT underground railway by building a 200 metre long steel footbridge, rather than a short tunnel which would have sufficed and left money to spare to replace the level crossing with a bridge.

 

Bangkok Railway Footbridge

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iServe – who in Chiang Mai ?

Firstly lest one might think otherwise let’s dispel the suggestion that iServe is yet another overpriced product from an American maker of electronic goods.

No iServe is a Christian youth organisation which aims to bring together young people from the many, often small churches in the city to meet together and perform community service.

2014-10-25 08.43.19  iServe at Tapae Gate

October 24th 2014 saw iServe’s inaugural environmental activity following in the footsteps of the monks from We Clean who could be seen on the streets two years ago.  If you have clicked on the We Clean link you will know that, try as we might to serve the community, the people, the country … success is not a sure thing. More on that later.

So what was the aim of the activity? Take a look at the pictures below:

  Moat Nailed Tree & OrchidNails to attach defunct fairy lights.2014-10-26 09.42.11 Moat Nailed Tree

 

 

 

 

 

Nails in trees can become entry points for disease and insect attack which may lead to reducing the vigour of the tree and possibly death of parts or all of the tree. The aim of the activity was to examine all the trees on both sides around the city moat and remove all nails.

Leading the exercise was a consultant team from Chiang Mai Keow Suay Hom in conjunction with the City Council, shown below briefing participants,  under the watchful eyes of soldiers of the Royal Thai Army.

 

Plan of Attack

So was the event a success? Bringing the young people together constitutes a success in itself for which the church leaders deserve congratulation, however was the community served as hoped for?

The  above pictures of nailed trees was taken  across from the end of Huai Keow Rd, on the day after the Saturday event. One can hardly blame the young participants if the job was left unfinished as I only saw two out of around one hundred carrying tools to remove nails.

But should they have been asked to walk around between 10 am and Noon, without hats in the sunshine? What ever happened to safety first? The council gardens workers do not go about so unprotected from the cancerous rays of the sun.

Why did not the Keow Suai Hom organizers ensure hats and tools were provided?

Why one might also ask, were not Municipal Officials, the people responsible for nailing the trees required to remove them? The precedent exists in Chiang Mai because following a highly corrupt tree purchasing program during the mayor-ship of the uncle of the present mayor of Chiang Mai, officials who oversaw the purchases at highly inflated prices were required to reimburse the state, and some are still paying monies although they have retired from government service.

Your reporter was unable to stay with the campaign until the finish, so we cannot report here on the final outcomes apart from the observation of trees remaining full of nails. We would like to know if there was any challenge to the municipality over its mismanagement of trees around the city moat, and its audacity in expecting volunteers to undo damage it caused?

In future iServe would be well advised to scrutinize with care the credentials of those who would take its labor for free.

May they succeed and may readers give them encouragement and support.

 

 

 

 

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David Sampson Yoghurt Tribute

A culinary surprise hit me some years ago when I moved to Chiang Mai. That was the abundance of freshly made yoghurt available in full milk or low fat varieties with no sugar added.

These were not available from the omnipresent 7-eleven stores which had pre-flavoured and sweetened varieties, but could be bought in smaller grocer shops such as Aden and Kasem Store.

Having developed what was becoming an expensive habit, with the price now at 160 baht for a couple of days supply, I was pleased when David Sampson, who then running West Restaurant offered a supply at 70 baht a jar.

Then after a while David kindly told me how I could make yoghurt myself, and the recipe appears below.

Sadly David is no longer with us having passed away last July, and a lovely tribute to him is written by his old friend and customer in Bert’s blog.

So every morning I think of David and every other day I follow his instructions:

1. Take 3 desert spoons of yogurt and put in a clean jar

2. Top up the jar with milk of choice and stir well

3. Put on the jar lid and put in a warm place.

It should be set in around 12 hours and ready to eat. Don’t make the mistake I made of topping up an almost empty jar with milk, as the yoghurt which is exposed to air for sometime develops an unsavoury  odour.

Yoghurt

And the home made price? Around 40 baht.

 

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15,000 BIG! TREEs in TOWN here in 2015

2014 is the third year of operation of BIG! TREE IN TOWN by the Christian social organization “Allso” . Their aim is to plant 15,000 trees by 2015 and at their recent promotional event staged by the Ping River in down town Chiang Mai on 13th September the question asked but unanswered by a news photographer was “Where will all these trees be planted?”.

A fair question indeed. Hard to imagine them along the roads as at an average spacing of ten metres 150 kilometres of road would have to be found and that length of road space in Chiang Mai town is not available.

So the answer must be found elsewhere and one easy site is only ten kilometres from the city centre. Near the Provincial Administration Center at Mae Rim, between the Irrigation Canal which flows south from the Mae Daeng and the eastern slopes of Doi Suthep is an extensive area of degraded forest and weedy grassland managed by the Royal Thai Army at Huai Teng Tao.

Huai Teung Thao - Army area tree planting site long grass

NASA satellite photographs from Google Earth document the extent of available land much of which has been subject to tree planting in the last decade only to have most trees destroyed by fire. The grass dominated area in the above picture is situated at the northern end in the aerial photographs here which cover the period from 2002 to 2013 and shows no sign of increased tree cover.  The middle of the site remains dominated by paddy fields which are not available for reforestation. Although south of the stream bisecting the site, areas with tree cover have slightly increased in the past decade, bare land with neither grass nor tree cover can be seen on the ridges of the foot hills to the west.

The lack of top soil due to prolonged erosion on the ridges will necessitate back packing soil dredged from the lake during the dry season to permit tree planting.  A great exercise routine for students and army recruits.

Haui Teng Tao 2002 l

 

Haui Teng Tao 2005Haui Teng Tao 2010 lHaui Teng Tao 2010 XmasHaui Teng Tao 2011 lHaui Teng Tao 2012 Dec lHaui Teng Tao 2012 lHaui Teng Tao 2013 l

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The above images range from the top left in 2002 thru 2005 2010 2010

2011 2012 2012 2013  at bottom right.

( Click to see in detail and then click again to enlarge the image )

Footnote: 15,000 may seem like a lot of trees, however government tree nurseries in Chiang Mai have many hundreds of thousands in plastic bags which should have been planted in 2013 and 2014. Did officers of the Royal Forests Department who knew of this situation in May press the military committee running the country to move urgently to demand funds to plant these trees during the rainy season?

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Railway Park Trees Made Safe

Early this September we reported on the splendid growth of trees in Railway Park, but included a warning of the danger from big dead trees.

One week ago today during a visit to Chiang Mai’s newly appointed governor Suriya Prasatbuntitya in the grounds of his official residence by the Narawat bridge a delegation from Gum Hak Doi Suthep showed the governor photos of the dead trees.

We explained that the Nakhorn Chiang Mai Municipality had failed to act to remove this public danger despite being warned of the issue.

Photos below taken this morning document the removal of the trees.

DSCN3711 - Railway Park Dead Trees Now FirewoodDSCN3712 -Railway Park Dead Bombax goneDSCN3713 - Railway Park Dead Trees CleanupDSCN3714 - Railway Park Dead Tree Cleanup

 

 

 

 

 

Also in response to reports that management of the park would revert from the municipality to the Railways Department from 30th September, we interviewed the Chiang Mai Station Master who said that the park would continue to be open to the public for recreation as before. A budget for maintenance had been approved and a company had been contracted to perform the work.

We told of the community tree planting efforts of recent years organized by Gum Hak Doi Suthep with the aim of bring a diverse range of indigenous trees to grace and shade the park and our desire to continue this program.  The Station Master requested  our contact details to forward to the contractor.

 

 

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Flood Warning for Chiang Mai 2014

With reports of serious flooding coming from various parts of Thailand e.g. Sukhothai and Chiang Rai, what might happen if heavy rain falls in the the Ping River catchment upstream of Chiang Mai?

These pictures from 2011 give the answer:

Flood Warning - September 2011 - 2014  perhapsFlood Warning - September 2011 - Railway Park

However given similar rains, September 2014 floods could be worse, as levy banks upstream constructed since 2011 will raise water levels, as will this new barrage opposite Chiang Mai’s central market :

Flood Warning - September 2014 Worot Market Barage

Inappropriate construction as reported in July along the Ping River continues.

 

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Railway Park Trees – 4 years on 2010-14

After several years with the gates locked due to a contract dispute, Chiang Mai residents were allowed to use the Railway Park in early 2010 and to mark World Environment Day community tree planting was organised for 4th June that year.

Most of the planting was concentrated at the northern end of the park and on both sides of a black water drain there. Trees on the northern side of the drain were twice destroyed by an ill considered dredging of the drain and then finally for a new high wall separating the park from the palace grounds on the Irrigation Department land.

The photos here show some excellent growth and alas dead stags which pose a deadly health hazard to park workers and visitors alike.

DSCN3056 DSCN3006 DSCN3007 DSCN3008 DSCN3011 DSCN3020 DSCN3021 DSCN3023 DSCN3025 DSCN3048 DSCN3049 DSCN3050 DSCN3051 DSCN3052 DSCN3053 DSCN3054 DSCN3055

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