The ruling is seen by anti-pollution advocates as a milestone for environmental court cases concerning air pollution in the country_especially in relation to the hard-to-fight PM2.5 emitted from industrial sector
The Central Administrative Court today has ruled in favour of anti-pollution campaigners including EARTH, EnLaw, and Greenpeace, who filed the case against authorities in charge of the matter last year for failing to protect people from PM2.5 hazards despite having the national agenda and plans to address the problem. They include the National Environment Board, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, and the Industry Ministry.
The court instructed the Industry Ministry to register PM2.5 emissions and transfers from factories within 60 days following the Pollution Release and Transfer Register principle or simply known as PRTR.
The PRTR is an emerging tool that is expected to help regulate the releases and transfers of pollutants by the industrial sector in the country, thus boosting accountability and transparency of pollution management as it demands the sector to register and report publicly pollutants that the sector discharges to the environment.
According to EARTH, as citing the statistics from the Industrial Works Department, there are over 130,000 factories in operation countrywide; 70,000-80,000 of which are known to generate pollution.
The ministry has been formulating a new PRTR law, but according to EARTH, the draft law fails to address the section concerning disclosure of information regarding pollutant releases and transfers. It also failed to address PM2.5 as part of the pollutants subject to the registration.
The civil society led by EARTH (Ecological Alert and Recovery-Thailand), meanwhile, has also been pushing for its own version, which demands thorough transparency of pollution management in the country.
The ruling by the court today is therefore seen by anti-pollution campaigners as a milestone for pollution management of the country, especially in relation to the critical PM2.5, of which its sources of origin in the industrial sector remain unclear.
Penchom Saetang, EARTH’s Director said after the court ruling that the PRTR is a regulation enforced by many countries across the world to address pollution. It is different from existing environmental laws, usually defining a general concept of environmental protection.
The PRTR, she said, is implemented to directly supervise industrial factories and other sources of pollution, thus reducing pollution emitted to the environment. The main purpose of the PRTR is to provide the public with easy access to information on the amount and types of pollutants from every source via a website aligned with the community right-to-know. This regulation will create a big database that includes sources, types, and amounts of pollution and is open access for agencies and the public, according to Ms. Penchom.
“Thailand should accelerate the implementation of the PRTR so that air pollution could be dealt with more effectively,” remarked Penchom.
Supaporn Malailoy, EnLaw’s manager, said the court ruling today reflects how the justice sector gives importance to the issue. Despite no laws in place, the court subsequently ordered the ministry to come up with the PRTR for PM2.5 with a clear timeframe, thus expediting the process in a way.
EnLaw’s Secretary-General Surachai Trong-ngam also shared her similar views. As a noted lawyer, he said today’s ruling of the court has set a new standard for environmental cases in Thailand, particularly those related to air pollution, which have a wide-range impact on Thai people.
Mr. Surachai said the group will keep a close eye on the implementation of the PRTR as well as the government’s progress toward other measures for PM2.5. As the court has at the same time dismissed other petitions by the group, including the request for a standard for concentrations of pollutants emitted by factories, the group will contemplate an appeal as it has around 30 days to work on it.
“From now on, civil society will closely monitor and follow up on the court instrutions imposed on the Industry Ministry. We hope to gather support from the public to push the PRTR forward, via an online channel at thaiprtr.com, to ensure we have a pollutant database in Thailand that is open and accessible to everyone. Our health cannot wait and access to clean air is our fundamental right,” the group said in its statement released upon the court ruling.
So far, there have been more than five court cases concerning PM2.5 filed at the Administrative Court as the situation has gone from bad to worse over the past few years.
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