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.