For healthier living in Thailand. Victims of industrial pollution defend their rights

5.6.2018 - BANGKOK
Thailand suffers from contaminated water among others
PHOTO: Ondrej Petrlik / Arnika

The "Citizen Science Project" successfully enhanced the public participation for environmental and health protection in Thailand. Gold mining, contaminated water or inadequate worker rights shall no longer be serious issues in the sites targeted by the program. Local communities have achieved significant changes also thanks to the help of non-governmental organizations EARTH and Arnika, thus celebrating today's World Environment Day.

Increasing Transparency in Industrial Pollution Management through Citizen Science is a project funded by the European Union (EU). It encourages pollution-affected communities to generate scientific evidence about industrial pollution causing environmental and health damages. It has the objective to promote corporate accountability and citizen access to information about environmental issues. The activities are implemented by local NGO Ecological Alert and Recovery - Thailand (EARTH) together with Arnika NGO from the Czech Republic.

In the framework of the project, three community-based organizations were supported for a total amount of 9,000 EUR (approx. 335,000 THB) to implement activities reducing the impact of pollution in the life of Thai citizens.

The mediators for these activities were the Thai organization Ecological Alert and Recovery - Thailand (EARTH) and Prague based NGO Arnika. “International cooperation allows us to export ideas and to improve mutual exchange to achieve environmental protection and to raise awareness on environmental issues. We should recall that environmental issues ignore political borders,” Arnika’s expert on toxic pollution, Jitka Strakova highlights the principles of the United Nation’s World Environment Day celebrated on June 5th.

Right to compensation

Thanks to the EU funds significant action was the support of the Council of Work and Environment Related Patient's Network of Thailand (WEPT), which negotiates compensation for health damage of pollution victims. In particular, workers in local factories often have no information on possible contamination of the workplace or on means to resolve the critical situation. Yet, the exposure to heavy metals and other toxic substances often leads to serious and fatal health problems.

For example, a worker of a textile factory in Ang Thong Province fell into complete incapacity for work after being exposed to sulfur dioxide in the workplace. It was mainly thanks to WEPT that the man was eventually compensated with more than eighty-eight thousand Euros (3.4 million Thai bahts).

Many similar court trials have been facilitated by the organization, some of which are still open. Besides, WEPT educates the workers on their rights and the dangers that work in the factories brings.

Together for cleaner water

Meanwhile, pollution victims also received help from the group of active staff at the Samut Sakhon Hospital outside of Bangkok. Proximity to the Thai capital is the reason for high concentration of industrial sites in the area, which fundamentally influences the quality of water, the conducted analysis has proven. The findings, listed in the Report about the Environmental Impact on People Health Related to Water Pollution in Amphoe Muang Samut Sakhon, will be a key source of information for raising awareness and for lobbying local authorities and responsible politicians.

In Loei Province, in the northeast of the country, locals have farmed on toxic soil, contaminated by sewage water from a nearby gold mine. The inhabitants of six nearby villages formed the Khao Luang Heritage Conservation Group (KLHCG) and through funds provided by the project they improved cooperation in the region and introduced regular monitoring of pollution levels in various locations around.

More achievements followed, remarks director of EARTH, Penchom Saetang. “The community succeeded in having the remediation plan accepted by the Pollution Control Department in Wang Saphung District. Also, the KLHGC has been awarded for its active and enduring work,” Saetang mentions the recently received Somchai Neelaphaijit Award, named after the Thai lawyer and human rights defender, who has gone missing in 2004.

Even though drinking water gets more and more valuable every year, another urgent matter stole the attention of the UN’s World Environment Day: plastics. The World Environment Day, which this year is hosted in India, is the most important global event for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment. It is being celebrated on 5 June since 1974. In the past forty-four years, the globalised economy has brought more and more borderless environmental issues and risks we have to face, Strakova concludes.

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Ecological Alert and Recovery - Thailand (EARTH) is an independent non-governmental organization striving for social and environmental sustainability and justice in Thai society. EARTH serves as a watchdog monitoring the Thai government’s industrialization policy, industrial pollution and unsustainable consumption patterns. It also promotes climate justice, good governance and accountability of governmental and international agencies. The main target of EARTH’s interest is the impacts of hazardous substances on ecosystems, local communities and workers’ health.

 

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The European Union (EU) is the world's biggest development aid donor. Its development policy seeks to foster sustainable development and build a fairer and more stable world, concentrating in priority areas such as human rights, democracy and other aspects of good governance, and inclusive and sustainable growth. The Delegation of the European Union in Thailand is mandated to promote the political and economic relations between Thailand and the EU, inform the public of the development of the EU, and support the implementation of the EU’s assistance programmes.

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