Development at All Causes
The country’s modernisation and industrialisation strategies, which began under Prime Minister Marshall Sarit Thanarat and continued until the 1st Edition of the National Economic Development Plan (1961-1966), have transformed Thailand, particularly Bangkok and the surrounding area, into a great example of the ecological crisis of an industrialising urbanised society.
Even though pollution was not yet on the public agenda, there was a toxic accident, such as manganese poisoning in workers at a battery factory in Bangkok in 1964.
During the 1967 decade, the use of natural resources without taking precautions to avoid negative consequences exacerbated the environmental problem. In this decade, the Thai environmental movement arose in response to water pollution in the Mae Klong River caused by manufacturing industries (during 1972-1973).
The conservation club was founded by university students and was an integral part of the mass uprising on October 14th, 1973. Thai student activists also took on a larger role shortly after the event.
Early industrial pollution was associated with transboundary movement of polluting industries, such as the fight to cancel mining concessions in the Thai Gulf by TEMCO Company, whose largest shareholder is Union Carbide Company, based in the United States. There was a protest against the construction of a nuclear power plant in Ao Pai, Chonburi province, as well as a protest against the construction of a petrochemical plant and a campaign against air and water pollution.
The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden, has had numerous benefits for environmental awareness in Thailand. In the government sector, there has been a structural change in terms of law, the preparation of new organisations and mechanisms used in managing the environment, particularly the Act of Environment Quality Promotion and Control in 1975, which has become the beginning of more visible environmental measures of the government. Environmental courses have been offered in universities, and the number of environmental organizations have grown.
Lesson learned from Phuket
Since the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the former Soviet Union, the public has been more concerned about industrial pollution. The tantalum smelting plant in Phuket was met with public opposition. The situation became increasingly complicated, culminating in tragedy on June 23, 1986, when the factory burned down. This is one of the first demonstrations against the government’s industrial development project.
The burning of the tantalum factory in Phuket demonstrated that public violence usually occurs before people are aware of their right to express themselves democratically. Furthermore, it has been suggested that this type of event is likely to occur if the mechanism of participation is removed from the process of industrial development.
The event in Phuket demonstrated that the insurance provided by the project owner and the governmental section was insufficient, despite the fact that the Minister of Industry stated at the time that the factory would not be allowed to open unless the security test and primary environmental effect were met. Furthermore, despite the fact that the tantalum factory in Phuket has one of the best designed pollution control systems in the world, the protestors were unconcerned.
During the three years that the factory was under construction, the refusal to listen to the voices of local residents and other public groups in Phuket increased distrust, eventually leading to the end of the bad luck day in June 1986.
The tantalum factory in Phuket is a project supported by the World Bank’s international monetary cooperation section. The investment funds totaling nearly $30 million USD have already been spent. This is regarded as an expensive conflict lesson about pollution in Thai society.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)
From 1970 to 1984, Thailand’s foreign direct investment (FDI) increased nearly 16 times. Only foreign investment in the industrial sector increased once a year, from 1,609 million baht in 1985 to 8,868 million baht in 1988. This was caused by the relocation of America’s, Japan’s, Europe’s, and Asia’s new industrial countries’ production bases.
The industry that is the investment target of these countries is the direct investment by moving production base to Thailand and it must be involved with dangerous waste, for example, chemical industry, electronics industry, metal and non-metal industry. These kinds of industries have been increasing since 1970.
Thailand Development Research Institute (1990) has pointed out that the Industry Support Department of Board of Investment has made the ratio of dangerous waste production increase from 25 % in 1987 to 55% in 1989. The production industry sector has produced waste for approximately 90% from metal industry, plating and machining metal industry, fixing and assembling transport equipment industry, electronics industry and chemical industry.
Pollution Control Department said that during the past ten years, the amount of dangerous waste has increased from 0.9 million tons in 1990 to 1.48 million tons in 1996 and to 1.65 million tons in 200019. Most dangerous wastes are sludge and solids, heavy metal, acid and alkali polluted with heavy metal, oil sludge and etc.20
Different levels of pollution control of multinational corporations in Thailand is one factor of the pollution problem. The writing on “Siamese Tragedy” of Walden Bello has showed that:
A foreign expert who has a lot of experiences with the environmental inspection section of the government said that “ No matter Australia, China or Japan, they are all the same. If it is possible, they will invest nothing in environmental control” He raised an example of a German refrigerator company, which uses low technology that is more dangerous to the environment more than the technology used by head offices in Europe. “They could use a better way, but they did not.”… As for the Japanese company, “Japanese people can deal with their environment and pollution mostly by moving those industries with dangerous waste to Thailand, such as, textile industry that releases acitatedyse” This same expert also said that “Soda… factory of Asahi company that releases mercury has been moved to locate on the side of Chao Phraya River” Japanese company, which is an expert in water pollution said that the polluted water eradicating system of the … factory of Japanese people that is joint venture with Thai people is lower than normal standard while Taiwanese companies are in the group that violate the environmental rules the most…Siamese Tragedy
The Expansion of Industrial Estate
The decade of 1987 is the golden age of the export-oriented industry. It can be said that Thailand has become a new industrialised country. The number of factory has increased from 67,145 in 1987 to 122,885 in 1996. Industrial estate has expanded rapidly since the beginning of the decade of 1987. In 1995, there were 56 industrial estates all over the country. Only in the area of 3 eastern seaboard provinces (Chachoengsao, Chonburi and Rayong), there are both running and planning to open totally 36 industrial estates and industrial areas.
The expansion of industrial estate all over the country has raised a question about justice in allocating resources. The spread of land cornering has led to competition and change in using resources and also impact toward water source used in industrial production. The establishment of industrial estate is not different from the land allocation business without the study of appropriation and potential of the area and also the impact toward environment and health.
The Eastern Seaboard Development programme is one of the most precise examples of pollution problems, caused by industrial expansion. There are continuous reports about the impact toward the environment and health of people, for example, trespass on public land to build seaport, sea filling, beach collapse, industrial waste stealthily dropping, accumulation of polluted substances in the coastal environment and industrial accidents.
All through the duration of rapid industrial development, Thai society has acknowledged so many accidents. One important accident was the explosion of a chemicals storehouse at Klongtoey Port in 1991. Pollution Control Department reported that only during 1999-2000, there were 24 chemicals accidents, 50 deaths and 1,400 injuries
Many related governmental organizations have their own development plan to manage and prevent accidents but the failure of their plan is there is no direct responsible organization in uniting the management and prevention. There is no absolute commanding organization that can make decisions at the national level. Those related organizations still lack readiness both in terms of potential of staff who are rescuer and the healing place.
The management and prevention of each chemical accident was carried out unsystematically and still lacked an effective revival system and concrete and clear compensation after the accident had happened.
Not In My Backyard (NIMBY)
The increasing difficulties of project supporters that have an impact toward the environment in western countries, such as, United States, is resulted from the support for strength of community with rights and by making use of progressive law. New words that have been created by public relations companies of the industry and become popular are Not In My Backyard (NIMBY), which later have been developed to be a strategy used by industry side in attacking the community that opposes their project.
The community that opposes each project of the government or the industry is accused as a “carrier of NIMBY disease” As a result, NIMBY has a hiding meaning, which the industry sector uses in referring to democracy and there is also a campaign for eradicating this disease.
Local communities that make a stand to oppose governmental big projects are also accused as selfish and not willing to take burden or participate in the things that bring benefit to the social. However, someone has disputed that NIMBY is not necessary to always come from the lack of reason of community or selfishness but from the reaction of the community that has no chance to be a part of the making decision process.
The history of industrial pollution in Thailand has also developed to this point. When the conflict about environment between benefit groups has increased, many local communities have been accused as having NIMBY disease, for instance, the protest against the plant that uses garbage and lignite in producing power of people in Hangdong District, Chiang Mai and the protest against the project on establishing industrial waste extermination center, which was operated by GENCO Company of people in Pluak Daeng District, Rayong. Finally, one of the leaders was assassinated, thus, GENCO had to move its project to Mabtapud Industrial estate.
One more important problem of Chemicals Safety is the pollution of Persistent Organic Pollutants; POPs and heavy metal. Since the awareness of the public toward the remaining pollution problem is very little, therefore, the Subcommittee of Policy and Plan Coordination on Chemicals Safety has specified that the level of importance of this problem is in the middle. And the existing information is categorized as only a pesticide group.
The strict rules and regulations about the environment of industrial countries has generated the pass of old and out-of-date technology on to developing countries that have more relaxed rules and regulations. Municipality garbage burning plants, medical waste and industrial sludge, PVC producing plants and dissolving substances that consist of chlorine are all the technologies that produce persistent organic pollutants.
The sources of persistent organic pollutants in Thailand are municipal waste incinerators in Phuket and Samui Island, PVC plant in Samutprakarn, Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate, medical waste incinerator of Bangkok at Onnuch, industrial sludge burning plant in some industrial estates and paper mill that uses chlorine in bleaching. These technologies come in the form of a big amount of capital, industrial basic building project or waste treat project.
The case that emphasizes the spread of pollution in the environment is the release of waste that has dioxin from the paper mill of Phoenix Pulp and Paper Company in Khonkaen into Jod Swamp and Pong River for many years.
Thailand still has no standard in controlling or reducing the release of dioxin into the air, soil and water. In the case of Pong River pollution, no matter how much dioxin is released into the water, it is still considered as right. In 1997, the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment launched a ministerial regulation in order to determine standards for controlling the release of air pollution from waste incineration plants. However, this standard has been determined without basic structure in following and making use by law practically.
As a matter of fact, Thai government has not prepared to deal with industrial pollution as it should because of the lack of inspiration in solving the problem seriously, which is resulting from having economic benefit groups holding political power. As for the group that receives the effect and stays at the edge of the development has to take all bad luck further. This is totally contradicted to the active image of government organization in responding to the trend of the world environment.
Since the middle of the decade 1987, Thailand’s environmental organizations have highly responded the trend of world environment both the concept of sustainable development and the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 in Brazil.
The important response is the change in terms of structure, law and environmental organization, for example, the improve of the Acts of Environment Quality Support and Control in 1975, which has led to the Acts of Environment Quality Support and Control in 1992.
Environmental organizations that have been reorganized are Bureau of Environment Policy and Plan, Pollution Control Department and Environment Quality Support Department. The Polluter Pay Principles has been used to force industrial factories and all projects that cause pollution must make use of the treatment technology. This principles has been stated in the 7th Edition of National Economic and Social Development Plan (1992-1996)
…but people still have no participation
After passing the duration of being effective for some time, the Environmental Acts 1992 has still been criticized about its success in terms of administration, practice following the law, effectiveness, including economy measure, and especially, the participation and information acknowledgement of people.
The protest against the project on industrial waste treatment plant establishment at Pluakdaeng, Rayong has reflected the dimension of people participation that has still been ignored, though section 6 of the Environmental Acts 1992 assures the rights of people participation. However, it is not clear whether it is truly the rights by law of people or not.
The trend of political reform that has happened after the Black May event in 1992 has affected Thailand environmental movement again. The People Constitution 1997 has determined the rights and duty of people in participating in environmental management, acknowledging governmental decisions , and also expressing opinion before governmental decision making.
Nevertheless, the industrial sector in Thailand has been developed further than the existing frame of environmental regulations. On the other words, the pollution crisis has reflected the regulation crisis. Walden Bello and group have raised some interesting and worth considering issues as following: 1) The standard of polluted water release is still behind the times. Some kinds of pollution still have no covering environmental standard. 2) There is still separation in working between the launch of policy and practice following policy. 3) The ability in bringing law into effect is not quite strict enough. 4) The quality of Thai governmental system, which is related to brain-drain and corruption. 5) The attempt in controlling pollution of related organizations is still contradictory with the need to attract investors no matter what we have to lose.
Consequently, the risk from industrial pollution in Thai society tended to increase and involved closely with the financial crisis in 1997. The first controlling mechanism used in sacrificing to reduce cost of industrial production was pollution controlling mechanism. This kind of risk is the situation that Thai society is still facing at present.
The factory town
Samutprakarn is the first factory town in Thailand. Industrial business has become the economic backbone of the province. However, the haphazard development has made Samutprakarn become one of the provinces that have the most pollution problem in Thailand, which are the decline of quality of water and air, the problem of garbage, waste, and dangerous chemicals.
In 1959, the leather bleaching plant and textile plant were moved from Prakanong District to Muang District, Samutprakarn. The compulsion to make use of land since the decade of 1957 and government policy on Bangkok crowd reduction have made industrial factory in Samutprakarn increase rapidly from 23 factories in 1969 to 597 factories in1976. Most of them are textile factories, which were invested by Japanese company. Until 1978, there were totally 1,520 factories. Important industries were the machine modifying industry, motor industry and metal and metallic products industry.
The policy on decentralizing industry to other provinces since 1982 has made Samutprakarn crowded with industrial factories. In 1989, only in Prapadaeng District, there were totally 1,059 factories. Most of them were small and family industries. In Bangpoo Industrial Estate, there were 128 running factories, which employed 22,896 employees more.
Industrial factories have expanded continually from Muang District and Prapadaeng District to Bangplee and Bangbor District during the decade of 1987. In 1990, there were 326 factories outside Bangplee Industrial Estate whereas there were 109 medium and large factories in Bangplee Industrial Estate.
Up to now, there are 6,188 industrial factories in Samutprakarn, increasing from 3,806 factories in 1992. The average increasing rate per year is 10.2%. Most of them are textile, metallic products, rubber and plastic, motor, machine, chemical products and food production factories.
In 2001, there were 237 entrepreneurs in Bangpoo Industrial Estate. 42 entrepreneurs are in the export zone. Most of them do chemical products, electronics, metallic products, leather bleaching, automobile part business. There were totally 123 entrepreneurs in Bangplee Industrial Estate49. Most of them do electric appliances, electronics equipment, metallic products and automobile business.
The Rising of Pollution
The expansion of industrial factory without land using control together with most factories that are small and scattered with old production process and no treatment for waste water have brought up serious water pollution. In 1970-1971, Environmental Health Division, Ministry of Public Health said that the amount of Diluted Oxygen (DO) in Prapadaeng Industrial Quarter was lower than the amount of DO in Nonthaburi Bridge area.
During 1970-1976, there was a spread of lead both on and under the ground. The lead came from the plant that melted lead from an accumulator of an old car in the area of Prapadaeng District, Bangkru Subdistrict. A 2-year-old girl was dead because of lead poisoning.
A part of the concept in establishing industrial estate to solve pollution problem that became more serious in 1974 was the project on industrial estate establishment in Klongdaan, but this project did not come out. Until 1977, the first industrial estate of Samutprakarn was in Bangpoo.
In 1987, National Environment Committee has studied and said that 3 main industrial quarters in Samutprakarn (Poochaosamingprai Road, Suksawat Road and the lower part of Sukhumvit Road), which had totally 356 factories, released 41,330 cubic meter waste water per day together with 39,900 kilogram sludge per day. This has brought up the plan of industrial pollution management and control in Samutprakarn.
The expansion of industrial factories in Bangplee and Bangbor has had an impact toward the water source and life of local people, especially, agriculturists. From the survey, it has been found that the quality of water in canals in Bangplee and Bangbor, especially, DO and BOD value was higher than the highest standard value in average. Furthermore, the heavy metal value, especially mercury and lead values were higher than the acceptable lowest standard, since most of the factories were small and had budget limitations in investing for the building of standard waste water treatment systems.
The survey of Watson Hawksley and SISAT (1987) has shown that most entrepreneurs have built waste water treatment systems without having knowledge and understanding about basic public health engineering. Even the Bangplee Industrial Estate that has a central wastewater treatment house could not measure or treat heavy metal. Therefore, wastewater that has been treated until the last step would be released into water source on the ground.
Pollution that has occurred in Bangpoo Industrial Estate was the same. When the waste water, which had BOD value 5 times higher than standard value was released into the sea, Pollution Control Department has measured the quality of waste water of Bangpoo Industrial Estate and found that the quality of wastewater was 15 times over than determined standard value. It has affected the new Bangpoo community, which is located near Bangpoo Industrial Estate. People had to turn to use poor quality water from the artesian well and also had to buy drinking water mostly60.
People in the area of Bangpoo Industrial Estate said that “They have never seen lotus and seaweed for a long time. Since there has been Bangpoo Industrial Estate, some small fishes, such as, Kradi and Sew fishes have all disappeared. Chon fishes could be found sometimes but they usually had wounds on their red skin or had stump fins. Sometimes they swam like they were crazy. They swam straight up to the surface of water and hit their head with the bank as if they wanted to breathe.”
Industrial sludge was one of the management problems that was expanding, especially when industrial business in Samutprakarn consisted of metal plating and machining, electronics, chemical and textile industry, which are all industries that build a lot of pollution.
In 1997, the Industrial Factory Department employed CMS Engineering and Management Company and Rust International Inc. from the United State to study and analyze the increase of industrial sludge. It has led to the making of a draft of the chief heading plan in eradicating dangerous waste by establishing a provincial industrial waste management center. The Ministry of Industry emphasized that industrial waste management by burning was an important component. There was a project to build an industrial waste burning plant, which cost 220 million baht, in Bangpoo Industrial Estate. The amount of waste expected to be burnt was 10,000-50,000 tons per year.
Environmental crisis in Samutprakarn has made the National Environmental Committee launch a resolution on December 15th, 1993 , to make Samutprakarn become pollution control area. One of the works being a pollution control area is a water pollution management project.
In 1993, Asian Development Bank has supported Pollution Control Department, Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment under the project on water pollution management in Samutprakarn pollution control area. In the last report in 1995, it was stated that there must be the building of a wastewater treatment system on both sides of Chao Phraya River. However, the wastewater treatment house finally has been changed to locate at Klongdaan Subdistrict, Bangbor District.
Pollution Control Department and Asian Development Bank (ADB) have claimed that Samutprakarn water pollution management project and central wastewater treatment system are the only true alternation that will help reviving the quality of water in Chao Phraya River and Thai Gulf. Besides, it will also reduce pollutants and heavy metal that have been deposited at the bottom of the gulf by trapping wastewater from industrial factories, houses and business areas and passing them through underground pipe to the central wastewater treatment house at Klongdaan Subdistrict. After passing each step of treatment, for example, the filtration, deposition and organic treatment by adding air and depositing microorganism. Wastewater from the treatment house is ready to be released into the sea through a waste water pipe.
Pollution Control Department insisted that in running project, there must be a system for controlling heavy metal and pollutants from factories, measuring heavy metal, releasing waste water, especially in rainy season, trapping smell with water curtain, covering primary treatment pool and also eradicating and making use of sludge.
The project on Samutprakarn waste water management by building a central wastewater treatment house at Klongdaan Subdistrict has been the beginning of another crucial environmental conflict of Thai society.
Investment for nothing
Central waste water treatment pool project at Klongdaan Subdistrict is a vivid example of environmental investment for nothing. An expert in waste water management said that this project is the use of hi-technology in solving problems by releasing waste water into the pipe and sending it to a faraway place for treatment. This method needs a very high investment while we could solve this problem with the technology that needed no treatment .
In the passing time, the waste water management in Thailand, which emphasizes the building of a big treatment system, has failed and led to the loss of a very large amount of the national budget. Many waste water treatment systems that were finished but unable to operate has become a monument of the district since the district could not administrate because of the limitation in terms of budget and staff.
Central wastewater treatment system at Klongdaan was the big secondary system or so-called extended aeration activated sludge, which has made the building budget and expense in operating increase a lot from 13,612 million baht to 23,701 million baht.
This treatment system still could not eradicate pollutants and heavy metal from industrial factories. Besides, it has also created sludge without separating organic sludge from heavy metal sludge.
Water that was released would be polluted with heavy metal, chemicals and …, which could not be eradicated with this system. This would affect the fishery, coastal breeding, especially mussel breeding, which is the main career of people in the area of coastal ecological systems.
Academicians have explained to the Environment Commission of the Senate that the release of 525,000 cubic meter treated water per day will reduce the saltiness of water to lower than 15 in one thousand for 3 continuous days. Aquatic animals are unable to adjust themselves and stay alive. The turbidity of water will block sunlight, which is necessary for the synthesis of plant plankton. This will affect the chain of food systems since aquatic animals cannot consume plant plankton.
Moreover, the problem of 60-80 tons of sludge, resulting from the treatment, which is polluted with heavy metal and the bad smell from the waste water treatment system will also affect the life quality and health of people and students around the area of the project in the community.
NO GOOD GOVERNANCE
People in the area of the project have acknowledged the news and information after the contractor company had already bought land and started to install a waste water pipe. Pollution Control Department said that this project did not do the public consideration since the contract of project building has been made before the regulation of Prime Minister’s Office on listening to the public opinion by doing public consideration 1996 and The Constitution of Thailand 1997 would be issued.
The move of the project area to Klongdaan Subdistrict has had a catch and involved with large benefit, especially, the land purchase. The project contractor has purchased land for 1,900 rai at the higher price than in reality from the company whose shareholder is a politician in the areaand the contractor company also has very close relationship with members of government parties at that time.
The project operation was also illegal because this project has been operated since the building contract sign until some part of the building has been done before it received the permit to do the factory from the official, according to the law of factory in the Factory Acts 1992. This project also has not made a report of study on the impact toward environment, in accordance with section 49 of the Acts of Environment Quality Support and Control 1992
Bright and Brilliant
The result of Eastern Seaboard Development Program has made the income per person and income that was money of population in Chonburi, Rayong and Chachoengsao increase at the top rank of the country. This has affirmed the Bright and Brilliant which was the motto of country leaders in the age that natural gas has been discovered in Thai Gulf and has been used commercially.
These things did not happen alone; it was the conspiracy of Thai government, consisting of politicians, technocrats, multinational corporations, international organizations, such as, World Bank and economic great power, which has brought up the springboard of growth in the eastern seaboard.
The 5th Edition of National Economic and Social Development plan (1982-1986), which is the development strategy for improving industrial structure in order to be able to compete and to disperse the crowd from Bangkok and surrounding area, has determined that Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate in Rayong is the area of heavy industry and industry that make use of natural gas from Thai Gulf while Laemchabung Industrial Estate in Chonburi is the area of light and export industries, such as animal feed, electronics and vehicle assembly.
The changing landscape
The image of Eastern Seaboard has totally changed because of the tremendous industrial development, the environmental deterioration and the way of life and health of the community that have been sacrificed for the brightness and brilliance.
The change in land use was the beginning that led to other crises, for instance, the surrender of a large amount of land for establishing industrial estate and port at Laemchabung, which is a conflict until Nowadays. The land corner for profit earned has spread all over the eastern region and the expansion of facility service has become a tool in drawing more resources into the industrial sector, for example, the total water management in the eastern region that was operated by East Water Company.
In the middle of the decade of 1987, there were many times of change in land using in the industrial area, for example, during 1994-1996, TPI Company at the suburb in the eastern side of Rayong has applied for a change in using land as industrial area instead of small crowd living area74. Star Petroleum Refining Factory in Mabtapud Industrial Estate has applied for a change in using buffer area for building and enlarging the factory and then combining it to be a part of the industrial colony75. The land expansion by filling sea for 1,200 rai in the southeastern part of Mabtapud Industrial Estate has made the buffer line between community and industrial factory decrease.
The building of Map Ta Phut industrial port in the first part since 1993 has brought up a great impact toward the coastal ecological system since the water current has changed and the coastal area was eroded. In the monsoon season, the channel has become shallow until it was difficult for fishermen to sail and catch fishes. In 1997, the sea filling in the second period has badly affected a large amount of coral in the middle level, especially, those in the eastern side of Saket Island.
Heavy Metal Contamination
In 1997, Harbor Department, Ministry of Communications has measured the amount of mercury in water source around Thai Petrochemical Industry (TPI) Co.,Ltd. and found that the value of mercury in all 3 points was higher than the standard value.
The study of Korakosh Wichetpittayapong during February 1989-July 1988 has found that the average value of mercury in water and sedimentary around Rayong Gulf was 0.28-13.50 ppb and 0.16-1.65 mg/kg respectively.
In 1998, Pollution Control Department has studied the concentration of mercury around Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate both in water, sediment and sea animals and found that the value of mercury in water, sediment and tissue of sea animal was not higher than the standard value.
From the measure of the heavy metal amount in the tissue of some aquatic animals, such as, mussel and crab, it has been found that there was the pollution of heavy metal, such as, cadmium, copper, arsenic, mercury, zinc and petroleum hydrocarbon but the value was not higher than the determined standard81.
Air Pollution Episode
From the survey, it has been found that 3 industrial estates in Map Ta Phut have totally 186factory funnel that emit air pollution82. Air quality around Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate has 16 kinds of evaporated organic substances. Some kinds of substances are material of the production process of the factory, such as Acrylonitrile, Styrene, Toluene, Benzene. People in 17 villages that are around Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate not over 5 kilometer have had problem with the breathing system and central nerve system, especially, people in Sophonwanaram Community and in Soi Ruampattana.
A Chemical accident that has happened continually has caused death and injury. In 1988, TPI factory had a fire and explosion, which caused 4 injuries and 2 deaths. Refining range of Olefin Factory in Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate has caught fire and there were 3 injuries and 3 deaths. In 1989, there was a mercury leak at the Natural Gas Separation Plant in Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate, which made 62 workers and staff of the factory sick. In 1998, 18-wheel-trailer, which carried 24,000 liter of Tuloine has turned over and caught fire84. In 2000, there was a leak of Carbonyl Chloride (Phosgene) at Thai Polycarbonate Company, which made 743 people in Mapchalood and neighboring area receive pollutant and have to stay in the hospital for healing.
Pollution Control Department said that the amount of hazardous waste in the East in 2000 was 0.061 million tons whereas GENCO, the service center for industrial waste management could eradicate around 77,000 tons of hazardous waste. The leakage and spillover of hazardous waste outside the industrial estate, such as, in the public area, mixing with garbage from the community is an incident that always happens.
In 1998, a chemical garbage, which was light yellow synthetic substance was found at Plutaluang Subdistrict, Sattahip District, Chonburi and at the uninhabited part of Nongfab Community, Maptaphud. These toxic industrial dregs that were stealthily dropped have had an impact toward health of people, especially, the problem of smell and the pollution of pollutants in the ecological system.
The complaints of people through local and regional administrative organizations could not help solving problems for the people. This reflected that the local organization has no potential in responding the problems.
The power in solving problems was centralized at the center part. The technology used in checking pollution was limited. There was a problem in bringing environmental and public health law to effect. There was no study on the potential of the area in bearing pollution. Besides, there was also the conflict between government organizations that were responsible for the environment and public health and government organizations that were responsible for industry.
There was a complaint on the impact that happened from air pollution of Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate since 1993. There were many times in 1994 that students and teachers of Rayong Polytechnic School had a serious headache and vomit and became sick until they must stay in the hospital for healing. This was because of the smell from the ABS and AS plastic kernel producing plant of Thai ABS Co., Ltd., which was a company in the group of Thai Petrochemical Industrial Company.
Up to now, there has been serious complaints when the problem became more severe, especially, Maptaphutpunpittayakarn School, which locates far from the factory only 200 meters, Sophonwanaram Temple and Maptaphut Community.
Many people believe that air pollution will be reduced, if there is buffer area between factories and communities. In the case of Star Petroleum Refining, it was combined to be a part of industrial estate. The deficiency of the production system and waste water treatment control and management of the entrepreneur have caused the problem of smelly vapor.
These pollutants have made students, teachers and villagers have problems with breathing and central nerve systems, such as, cough, dry throat, queasy feeling, vomit, pain throat, sore throat, stuffy feeling in the chest, inconvenient breathing. The pollutant will also be discovered in the blood of people.
Until nowadays, health problem from air pollution does not tend to be better. Instead of addressing pollution reduction at source, it’s about moving students to study temporarily at another school, installing air-conditioner in the school and purchasing pollution preventing mask for the school.