Chiang Mai Sustainability Assessment Part II

This is the second installment of a blog series that I am responsible for writing as a recipient of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. I will be researching and reporting on sustainability and environmentalism in Southeast Asia thanks to the program’s generous financial support.

A lot of aspects that make places sustainable are behind the scenes, high-tech, and not visible in daily life. However, what is visible is often quite indicative of the entire story. If this is the case, Chiang Mai, unfortunately is doing pretty poorly.

Surface Level Impressions: The Bad

(See what they do well in this post.)

    • There is absolutely no transportation plan in place for the city. Traffic is usually slow at best, utterly frustrating at worst. There is zero public transportation – no subways, metros, buses. The streets don’t seem to be able to adequately accommodate the city in terms of quantity as well as traffic flow. There is a lot of backtracking going on.

      This is Hat Yai, a city in the South. It still illustrates my point.
    • It is a challenge to find a public trash bin. As a result, the city is littered with garbage. Walking through campus, around the city center, or up nature trails will all prove this easily. It’s pretty bad, and I am even shocked to realize I’ve become desensitized to walking past fields of litter. There’s a lot of garbage burning happening on the outskirts of Chiang Mai and along the country’s highways and maybe the poor management of garbage disposal here is the reason.
    • Packaging is huge here. Buy anything off the street and you’ll get it in a styrofoam box and at least two plastic bags. Buy just a bottled green tea at 7/11 and get it bagged with plastic straws. It’s everywhere and everywhere it’s excessive. The reusable bag thing has clearly not caught on. Also, plastic water bottles are understandably a standard here, with questionable city water and sweltery weather.
Packaging? Also, yum.

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