Report: Forest encroachment for maize cultivation increased in Lower Mekong

Industrial-scale maize cultivation to produce animal feed, one of the two main reasons behind annual smog in the three Lower Mekong countries, has grown on a massive scale, satellite data analysis has revealed.

More than 11.8 million rai (4.7 million acres) of forested area in the northern regions of Thailand, Myanmar and Lao PDR has been converted since 2015 to make way for maize cultivation, Greenpeace Southeast Asia said in its latest report, released on Sept. 6. 

The report analyzes land-use changes in the Shan state of Myanmar, eight northern provinces of Thailand, and seven Lao provinces in the Lower Mekong region that are facing transboundary haze problems in recent years, mainly due to wildfires and widespread agricultural burning. 

Between 2021 and mid-2023 alone, more than 1 million rai (395,000 acres) of the region’s forest was lost to maize farming, Tara Buakamsri, the country director for Greenpeace Thailand, told Radio Free Asia, a news organization affiliated with BenarNews, on Friday. That is equivalent to more than 220,000 soccer fields, or more than twice the size of New York City.

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Subel Rai Bhandari for RFA