Increasing Transparency in Industrial Pollution Management through Citizen Science
Arnika (Toxics and Waste Programme) extensively collaborates with Thai NGO EARTH to enable Thai communities affected by industrial pollution to generate scientific evidence, to broaden awareness about emerging environmental and health damages from industrial pollution and promote corporate accountability and last but not least to promote Thai citizen right-to-know and raise awareness on good practices of right-to-know legislation from the European Union, Czech Republic in particular, as a participatory mechanism for pollution reduction and prevention.
We focus on communities that suffer from a growing clash between rural livelihood and unregulated industrial growth including growing fear to speak out against polluters due to corruption and threats against community leaders and face an emergence of serious environmental and health damage.
The need for intervention by Arnika and EARTH is due to the widespread misconception that industrial pollution is only a technical problem, when it is actually a problem of corruption, lack of law enforcement and lack of good governance. Residents and workers in contaminated environments are often denied the practical right to participate in decision-making because they are not technical experts and there is a lack of relevant data available to the public. Citizen complaints are dismissed for lacking scientific evidence. As a result, there is growing conflict in many communities across Thailand, and increasing poverty among residents and workers who face the financial burden of working in contaminated environments and living with pollution-related illnesses.
Past activities by EARTH and Arnika, including collaboration between EARTH and Arnika in 2012-2013, have shown that simple but strategic community-based research can generate scientifically-verifiable results and increase community negotiating power, which effectively trigger government agencies and even polluters to take action and implement policy changes toward more transparent and sustainable practices.
With this rationale, we are setting up Pollution Monitoring Volunteer Network composed of residents and workers living in target contaminated area. At the individual level, we equip affected residents and workers with the technical capacity to monitor emerging environmental and health damage from industrial pollution and generate simple but strategic scientific evidence. Our training program includes technical capacity building and peer-to-peer learning about relevant legislative framework, effective techniques in exercising rights and accessing government data, characteristics of polluting chemicals, and Best Available Technology and Best Environmental Practices in target industries. We will also equip affected residents and workers with the management capacity through subgrants and practical experience in mobilizing community-wide action, public communications, and effective dialogue with government agencies and polluters. The logic of our EU-funded project is illustrated in the figure below.
The EU funds the project “Increasing Transparency in Industrial Pollution Management through Citizen Science” through its thematic programme “Non-state actors and local authorities in development”. In Thailand, the programme's projects aim at promoting social cohesion, offering constructive platforms for dialogue and supporting the most marginalised and vulnerable societal groups in the country. Delegation of the European Union to Thailand: http://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/thailand