Bangkok Post – Menace of toxic waste lingers on

Tailings from Tak just the tip of the iceberg as authorities struggle to cope, writes Apinya Wipatayotin

Recent blazes in hazardous waste storage plants in Rayong and Ayutthaya, and smuggling of cadmium tailings from Tak to several provinces in Thailand have raised questions about hazardous waste management.

According to the Department of Pollution Control, the country produces 36 million tonnes of hazardous waste per year.

However, not all of it goes to hazardous waste management plants for treatment as required by the law. Illegal dumping of toxic substances is often reported in public areas.

Sonthi Kotchawat, an environmental academic, said the incidents only serve to prove the government’s failure in this area, which he also attributed to a lack of law enforcement and investment in the recycling business.

Untreated waste

There are over 2,500 recycling and industrial waste management plants nationwide. One-third of these are located in provinces linked with the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), including Chachoengsao, Prachin Buri, Chon Buri and Sa Kaeo.

The number of recycling and hazardous waste management plants has increased since the National Council for Peace and Order edict 4/2559 in 2016.

The order said city planning regulations should be waived for waste power plants and waste management plants, citing the urgent need to tackle waste management.

The ministry also issued so-called “evergreen” licences on the condition the plants report twice a year to the authority.

This finally became a loophole, as no authority came to check the plant’s performance to ensure it was in line with the regulations.

Although the current law says that industrial waste is still owned by the waste producer until the process of waste disposal is complete, there is no reliable system to ensure the waste will be managed properly.

“We need to amend the law to reassure the public that hazardous waste will be managed properly.

“We need to establish an audit system for inspections of plants. Local authorities also should be given the authority to supervise them,” he said.

Slack law enforcement

The Rayong provincial court in 2022 sentenced Win Process to pay compensation to 14 local people who filed a complaint over the environmental impact caused by the plant’s activity.

Due to polluted water and soil, locals couldn’t earn money from farming. The court ordered the company to conduct environmental rehabilitation. However, the company refused, saying its business no longer existed.

Recently, the sites of two hazardous waste warehouses, in Ayutthaya and Rayong, were the cause of huge fires.

Dawan Chantarahassadi, coordinator of victims from the industrial pollution network, said the government should urgently abolish order 4/2559 to limit harmful activity.

She added law enforcement is important to end the problem, especially measures to deal with hazardous waste.

She said the draft of the Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) proposed by the civil sector, will help minimise the problem, and information will also be made accessible to the public.

The draft has been submitted for parliament’s consideration.

Meanwhile, Chutiphong Pipoppinyo, Rayong’s Move Forward Party representative, said state agencies have failed to deal with chemical blazes.

Without a proper plan to manage the situation, locals always suffer the most, both in terms of loss of income and lack of a clean living environment, he said.

He suggested the fund for hazardous chemical accidents should be used to provide training in handling emergencies together with compensation to the locals who are affected.

“Our members of parliament are concerned and will raise the issue. We should have a solid outcome to prevent the same mistake.

“The hazardous haze has caused a severe impact on people and the environment, and more importantly, it takes time and budget for recovery,” he said.

SOURCE: : Thailand   (go to source)
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