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.
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.
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?