Getting from (PM)2.5 to Zero: The Gaps that Remain

Roadshow Recap from Session Stop #5, October 7

“The delaying of emission standard upgrade is done partly at the request of private businesses, but the government has to re-think this. While the government is helping to maintain private businesses’ profits, people in Thailand are suffering from the health impact of air pollution. Is it time now that the government started to think about its people?”-Dr.Witsanu

Ms. Penchom Saetung, Director of the EARTH Foundation and Thai CAN’s industrial emission expert, continued the discussion with another set of gaps in addressing industrial pollution in Thailand; a problem that affects many factory-filled areas in the central and eastern region of the nation. Ms.Penchom began by sharing about the existing regulatory measures trying to curb industrial emissions. These include environmental impact assessment (EIA, EHIA) requirements before the opening of the factory, legal regulations while the factory is in operation, and establishment of special committees and temporary measures during air pollution crisis.

“An urgent matter that Thailand requires right now is the serious intent on the government’s part to truly solve the problems rather than focusing on the business sector’s protection at the cost of dire health impacts on the majority of the people.” — Ms. Penchom Saetung

Continuing on from the gaps in fuel emission standards and industrial emission regulations, Dr.Veerachai Tanpipat, forest fire expert from the Forest Research Center, Kasetsart University, joined the conversation with a view from Northern Thailand, an area regularly suffocating from forest fires. Dr.Veerachai pointed out that one of the most significant contributors to the problem is the conflict between the city and the rural areas, heightened by the inappropriate policies and measures mandated from academic and/or government leaders without true understanding of the local context. Such measures often force farmers out of their livelihoods without any alternatives. This is compounded by the lack of support structure to enable local administrations, arguably the government entities most integrated with local areas, to be part of the solutions.

“We have spent years deciphering lessons learned from the experience. We need to now begin acting on the solutions. Lay the issues out on the table, and solve it one at a time. Don’t just call a meeting, write a report, then disperse until the next pollution season. The government has to be serious and genuine in trying to solve the problems now.”- Dr.Veerachai

One of the key points made by Dr.Veerachai was the utilization of academic knowledge in support of policy and measure design, an ethos shared by Mr. Matthew Perkins, Economic Affairs Officer, UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (UN ESCAP). Mr.Perkins supported Dr.Veerachai’s statement by sharing results from machine learning-based analyses of air pollution, which definitively highlight the difference between pollution found in Chiang Mai and pollution found in Bangkok. The results further strengthen the importance of taking local context into consideration when designing measures to combat air pollution.

“All of the people who are breathing air in the shared commons of our atmosphere in Southeast Asia need to understand that the collective impact of polluting events hits everyone. Therefore it is important for appropriate policy measures to be taken within Thailand, nationally, locally, and internationally through regional collaboration in this segment of the atmosphere.”- Matthew Perkins

The gaps that remain discussed by the experts are seemingly insurmountable. However, solutions are possible but they will only come following the inspiration to act by the government; the inspiration that can be driven by the collective push from the people. As Ms.Weenarin Lulitanonda, co-moderator and co-founder of Thai CAN, noted; “The inspirations to solve air quality issues, no matter what type of governance the countries have, have always been driven by the people — people who do not tolerate getting their rights to breathe clean air taken from them.”



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