EARTH Thailand

Groups sue ministries over PM2.5 problems

Bangkok Post 22 March 2022 | APINYA WIPATAYOTIN


Environmental activist groups have filed a lawsuit with the Central Administrative Court against the National Environment Board (NEB) and two cabinet ministers for failing to deal with the country's pressing air pollution problems, saying every citizen has the right to breathe clean air.

The two ministers were Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa and Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit.

The lawsuit was filed by representatives from Greenpeace Thailand, Environmental Law Foundation (EnLaw), Ecological Alert and Recovery-Thailand, Chiang Mai Breath Council, Northern Breath Council, the Rural Doctor Society and Climate Strike Thailand. 

The seven groups want the NEB to bring the nation's benchmark for atmospheric particulate matter (PM) that have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres in line with the World Health Organization's (WHO) recommendations.

WHO has set the safe threshold for exposure over a 24-hour period at 37 microgrammes per cubic metre (μg/m³) of air, or 15μg/m³ annually.

The so-called safe level in Thailand is 50µg/m³, according to the Pollution Control Department (PCD).

The groups urged all concerned state agencies to come up with a new standard for factory emissions, which must be in line with internationally accepted standards.

They also called on the Industry Ministry to require industrial facilities and factories to publicly disclose the amount of PM2.5 pollutants they are emitting, to allow continuous monitoring both by state agencies and the public.

Surachai Trongngam, secretary-general of EnLAW, said the court is expected to decide if it would hear the case within one month. 

He noted that the NEB has yet to update its PM2.5 measuring standards — which has been in use for over 10 years — despite a push from the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment last year.

"This is clear evidence of the board’s failures," Mr Surachai said. 

The litigation is intended to effect changes that will allow for a faster and more efficient action to the PM2.5 crisis, as recognised and protected by the constitution and the law, he added.

Wittaya Krongsap, a coordinator of Northern Breath Council, said that the northern provinces have been dealing with PM2.5 pollution for over 15 years, so urgent action from state agencies is needed.

Tara Buakamsri, country director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, added that the legal action against the three state agencies is the civil society’s efforts to push the government to solve the nation's PM2.5 problem.

Mr Tara hoped the move would raise public awareness of clean air as a basic human right.