Getting from (PM)2.5 to Zero: The Cost and the Impact of Air Pollution

Roadshow Recap from Session Stop #3, September 9

You can watch this session (and others) on our YouTube channel — note, this specific session was conducted in English with simultaneous translation to Thai.

Here’s a summary of highlights-

Assoc.Prof.Dr. Witsanu Attavanich of the Faculty of Economics, Kasetsart University, as Thai CAN’s environmental economist, started the discussion by describing the “economic losses due to air pollution” in Thailand. The losses had been estimated based on “social cost” borne by families impacted by air pollution in the country, with details provided in the Clean Air Blue Paper recently published by Thai CAN. Through extensive research and modeling, Dr. Witsanu estimated that the annual economic losses due to air pollution from PM 10 could be as high as 2 trillion baht or more than 12% of the country’s GDP. The number did not even include other damages such as loss of tourism and adverse impacts on outdoor events such as marathons yet.

“In solving the air pollution problem, we may need to revisit whether the measures imposed are creating unintended adverse effects. We need to better understand the local context in finding effective solutions for different areas.”- Assoc.Prof.Dr. Witsanu Attavanich

Mr. Supakorn Sirisoontorn, co-founder of Clean Air for Khon Kaen, took the conversation northeast and shared his experience pulling together a group of active citizens in Khon Kaen, a bustling city impacted by the rising levels of air pollution in recent years. The rising air pollution inspired many groups and people in the city, from individuals, media, and NGOs, to band together as Clean Air for Khon Kaen group looking to drive for sustainable solutions.

“The Smart City policy in Khon Kaen used to focus much more on economic growth and transportation infrastructure advancements, with barely any regards to environmental protection. Thus we needed to push for a more balanced conversation where the environment is also on the agenda.” - Mr. Suparkorn Sirisoontorn

Ajarn Supa Manoonsak, another co-founder of Clean Air for Khon Kaen, added to the conversation by sharing about her drive for awareness through the education for local development program. The program used to focus more on water quality and waste management, two long-standing issues in Khon Kaen, until the recent rise in air pollution. The transition from an invisible problem to a more tangible one has inspired certain policy action from the city municipality, including the inclusion of Low-Carbon City Strategy into the city plan.

“Many schools in the city are not yet active about protecting their students [from air pollution]. Students — children — should have the right, upon birth, to live in a clean environment or an environment that does not damage their health. Educators and school administrators need to understand this right and have a sustainable policy to protect it.” - Ajarn Supa Manoonsak

“To set the nation’s environmental direction based on GDP growth is nonsensical. We need to rethink our policy and re-look at our country’s infrastructure” - Vijo Varghese

Closing the conversation with a view from the south; Prof.Dr. Perapong Tekasakul, Director of Air Pollution & Health Effect Research Center, Prince of Songkla University, likened the air pollution problem in Thailand to a “national festival” that spans year-round; from winter pollution in the central plain to north and northeast biomass pollution in the harvesting months to trans-boundary haze during the monsoon season in the south. While the south has been known as a region with the cleanest air in the country, the region does get heavily affected by trans-boundary haze from swamp forest burning in Sumatra, Indonesia that sometimes travel thousands of kilometers in a matter of days.

“The root of the problem is about people’s livelihoods. Solve the livelihoods and you can solve air pollution. There needs to be a policy and infrastructure that enable people to live — to earn a living, to have good careers — without damaging the environment. If people can live well without needing biomass burning, then they won’t burn; but if they can’t, then air pollution will continue.”- Prof.Dr. Perapong Tekasakul

How You Can Get Involved

The exchange of air pollution problems and experience from around the country highlighted the necessity for policy-level and legislative solutions. This is precisely what Thai CAN has been doing with the preparation of a Draft Act on Regulating the Integrated Management of Clean Air for Health (read about the full process here). The Draft has since been administratively approved by the Thai Parliament and Thai CAN is now working to secure 10,000 Thai-citizen supporters to help put the Draft before the House of Representatives. Thai citizens interested in supporting the cause can do so here.

What’s Next? Join the next “Roadshow Stop” #4 on Wednesday, September 23 at 5pm ICT.

As for the upcoming event in the Digital Roadshow: From PM2.5 to Zero, join us on 23 September for a webinar on “The Creative Response to Air Pollution” to learn about the creative work by artists, educators, and community members passionate about air pollution issues.



We are a self-organized, citizen-driven project focused on humanity’s big challenges\\ \\ @circular_lab

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We are a self-organized, citizen-driven project focused on humanity’s big challenges\\ \\ @circular_lab