Industrial pollution has a serious impact on human health, fragile ecosystems, water and soil quality in Thailand. Changes in production processes, that are environmentally friendly, will allow the industrial sector to exist in harmony with nature and community.
This best practice highlights the key measures undertaken by the Government of Thailand to combat pollution at an industrial level. These include: the Green Industry project created by the Thai Ministry of industry, which provides green industry certification to corporates; stricter government regulations to address wastewater discharge into Thailand’s rivers and seas; economic measures proposed under Thailand’s Environment Act such as environmental taxes, pollution management fees, Area-based Pollution Control and Management, Sustainable Consumption & Production (SCP), Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and subsidies for environmental friendly activities; and setting of Thailand’s national biodiversity targets to combat pollution, under its latest National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP).
This best practice has been repurposed from Thailand’s Fifth National Report (5NR) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
Pollution is one of the major threats to Thailand’s biodiversity, other than climate change, overuse of ecosystem services, land use change, and invasive alien species.
Thailand’s industrial sector causes air, water and soil pollution, which has serious impacts on human health, food security, and on fragile terrestrial and marine ecosystems.
Industrial growth has created high levels of pollution in Thailand. Thailand’s ground water quality continues to decline, especially due to toxic chemical discharge by factories. There have also been cases of oil leaks and cargo ships submerging into water. For example, 2400 tons of brown sugar submerged in Chao Phraya River in May 2011. More than 20 tons of fish died within the first five days of this accident, due to low levels of oxygen and increased sugar levels in water.
Additionally, hundreds of oil drilling rigs are located in Thailand’s territorial waters. There operations affect the fragile marine ecosystems. In 2014, there was a 6.4 km long crude oil spill near Koh Tao in the west of the Gulf of Thailand, which had serious environmental impacts.
Some of the key actions undertaken by the government of Thailand to combat industrial level pollution include:
- The Green Industry Project: Operating since 2011, the Green Industry project (https://www.industry.go.th/industry/index.php/en/component/k2/item/10644-green-industry) was launched by the Department of Industrial Works, Ministry of Industry. Through this project, the Thai government encourages corporation’s to continuously improve their production processes including supply chains, and to fulfill their commitment to corporate social responsibility. By 2018, the Ministry of Industry has set a target to involve 35,000 industries into its five-level green industry certification system, which has been introduced under this project. The five levels include:
- Green Commitment, where corporates commit to develop an environmental policy, take relevant actions to mitigate environmental impacts, and to communicate the environmental policy to its personnel.
- Green Activity, where corporates successfully take action to mitigate environmental impacts.
- Green System, where corporates have a system in place for environmental planning, management, monitoring and evaluation.
- Green Culture, where corporates promote environmentally ethical behavior and a corporate culture of environmental sustainability.
- Green Network, where corporates are involved in the promotion and development of sustainable development activities in collaboration with other stakeholders, as well as, encourage partners to participate in the green industry certification process.
- Stricter regulations: In 2013-2014, the Department of Industrial Works, Ministry of Industry launched the “United Industries to Protect Rivers” project to promote river conservation, better water quality, and sustainable industrial development. Under the project, pilot activities were undertaken to improve water quality in six Thai rivers, around which numerous factories are located, such as Chao Phraya, Ta Chin, Lam Takong, and Bang Pakong rivers. The Ministry also introduced several stricter regulations to address waste water discharge into rivers. Some regulations include:
- Fine and imprisonment for up to two years, for factories which commit three consecutive violations of discharging wastewater into rivers;
- Increasing the distance of setting up a factory on a river bank from 50 to 100-500 meters.
- Good Practice Manual to mitigate pollution from excess nutrients in rice fields: In 2010, the Thai Pollution Control Department developed a good practice manual to help mitigate pollution from excess nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous from rice fields, caused due to the excessive use of chemical pesticides.
- Economic measures: The Fiscal Policy Office of the Ministry of Finance, together with the Pollution Control Department, under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, aims to introduce certain financial measures under the Thai Environment Act, in order to mitigate environmental pollution. The proposed economic measures include:
- Environmental taxes, which seek to collect tax for discharging pollutants into the environment;
- Pollution management fee, which seeks to levy a fee for waste disposal and treatment;
- Product tax and fee/product surcharge, which seeks to levy a tax or fee on corporates which produce or import products that may have negative impacts on the environment;
- Performance Bond or deposit agreements, which seek to cover environmental risk or damage; and
- Tax reduction, subsidy or low interest loans for products or operations, which are beneficial to environmental quality enhancement and conservation, and natural resource management.
- Thailand’s Master Plan for Integrated Biodiversity Management (2015-2021): Thailand has introduced several national biodiversity targets (NBT) and actions to combat pollution in its Master Plan 2015-2021, which was submitted to CBD under Article 6 obligations. These include:
- NBT 6, by 2020, seeks to keep pollutants at levels that would not damage ecosystem functioning and biodiversity.
- NBT 7, by 2020, seeks to control pollution to levels to avoid damage to ecosystem functions and biodiversity.
- The 20-Year Pollution Management Strategy and Pollution Management Plan 2017 – 2021: The strategy and plan was launched in 2017. The Pollution Control Department, under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) has been mandated to implement the plan in coordination with other government agencies and the polluters. Some of the concpets and principles of the strategy aim to:
- Mitigate and control pollution sources in the main sectors, from upstream through the end of pipe.
- Encourage the local administration to manage wastewater and municipal waste management.
- Apply the Polluter Pays Principle (PPP), and incentive programs for sustainable production and consumption (SCP).
For the industrial sector, the Pollution Control Department has pushed forward; i) environmentally friendly production technology, ii) determined areas for developing Eco-industrial cities or measures for area-based pollution management, and iii) increased efficiency in the inspection and control of pollution sources.
- Strong government regulatory framework and private sector involvement is vital to combat industrial pollution, and to promote sustainable development. Governments and the private sector must come together, with governments providing the needed regulatory framework and the private sector contributing towards innovative solutions and funding to combat pollution.
- Recognizing and celebrating corporate efforts to combat pollution is an excellent way to encourage private sector involvement and ownership.
- Preparedness and capacity of local administration and related agencies is vital for pollution management.
- Sufficient budgets and subsidies are key to undertake efficient pollution management operations.
According to Thailand’s 5NR and CBD’s evaluation entitled “Analysis of Targets Established by Parties and Progress Towards the Aichi Biodiversity Targets”, Thailand has made good progress in controlling industrial pollution. The actions taken by the Thai government sit on an intersection of three Aichi Targets, i.e. ABT 3 (incentives), ABT 4 (sustainable production and consumption), and most importantly ABT 8 (pollution) which states, “By 2020, pollution, including from excess nutrients, has been brought to levels that are not detrimental to ecosystem function and biodiversity.”
According to Thailand’s 5NR, some of the key outcomes from implementing government initiatives to combat industrial pollution include:
- By 2004, over 12,000 industrial units were certified at levels 1-4 under the Green Industry Project;
- In 2014, Siam City Cement was the first Thai cement company (https://bit.ly/2xs2YnM) to be awarded the Level 5 (green network) green industry certification by the Ministry of Industry. The company supports more than 450 other corporates to participate in the Green Industry project. The company also hires ninety-seven percent of its labor from the local population, to work on projects related to community development, environmental conservation, water conservation, among others.
- In 2013, under the ‘United Industries to Protect Rivers’ project, 641 factories were inspected and 14 were penalized for discharging waste water into the rivers.