Navy officers in protective PPE suits walked along Mae Ramphueng Beach in Tambon Map Ta Phut, Rayong province, using absorbent sheets to absorb black stains that washed ashore by the waves in late January last year. The Governor of Rayong Province and the Pollution Control Department and its officials visited the beach area to inspect the oil slicks that landed on the shore. They collected some samples for further examination to try to address their source of origin. 

Star Petroleum Refining (SPRC) had reported to the Rayong Disaster Prevention and Mitigation office about the incident of crude oil leaking from an undersea pipeline at its single point mooring (SPM), which is the company’s offshore oil transfer point on the night of January 25. 

Initially, at least 160,000 litres of crude oil were reported as leaking and spilling over one square kilometre of the seawater. 

This was not the first. A similar incident occurred in the same province around nine years back, damaging tourism as the spilt oil was washed ashore at its famed Samed island. According to Greenpeace, over 200 oil spills took place in the last 45 years, with at least nine major incidents reported, challenging the country’s management of pollution from oil spills.
Photo: ©Panumas Sanguanwong


Photos/Story: Panumas Sanguanwong
The Photo Essay series: SDGs I The Depth of Field
JUNE 12, 2023

At the UN Sustainable Development Summit in 2015, where the UN member states adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development together, a clear vision on sustainable consumption and production patterns was set alongside other key challenges 

Their joint agenda noted; “We envisage a world in which every country enjoys sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and decent work for all. A world in which consumption and production patterns and use of all natural resources_from air to land, from rivers, lakes and aquifers to oceans and seas_are sustainable.”

From the vision, the UN member states turned these promises into their new commitment known as Sustainable Development Goals, with 17 goals set in total, and sustainable consumption and production has become part of these new goals since (SDG 12).

The member states said they committed to making fundamental changes in the way that societies produce and consume goods and services. Therefore they called on governments, international organizations, the business sector and other non-state actors and individuals to contribute to changing unsustainable consumption and production patterns, especially to help developing countries move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption and production.

“We encourage the implementation of the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production. All countries take action, with developed countries taking the lead, taking into account the development and capabilities of developing countries,” the member states said of their new agenda.

Alongside other waste challenges, chemicals and hazardous waste were highlighted. As noted in the report on progress towards the SDGs by the UN’s Secretary General at the beginning of the implementation of the SDGs goals in 2016, “sustainable growth and development require minimizing the natural resources and toxic materials used, and the waste and pollutants generated, throughout the entire production and consumption process.” 

Important conventions were then emphasised and lined up for countries to participate, ranging from the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, known as the Basel Convention, the Rotterdam Convention (on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade), and the Stockholm Convention (on Persistent Organic Pollutants). According to the UN, all member states with six exceptions at that time were party to at least one of these conventions. 

Under SDG 12, 11 targets and 13 indicators to guide the governments’ action were introduced, including the commitment to this 10-year framework and the conventions. In Thailand, the sustainable consumption and production roadmap was developed along with other critical measures for concerned parties including good practices for the business sector. The roadmap will run until 2037, according to the NSEDC (The Office of the National Economic and Social Development Council).

Still, some major challenges including the management of hazardous waste are stressed by the agency. It cited that all concerned parties must get serious in tackling the hazardous waste problem seen as it still poses a challenge to the country’s waste management.

As shown by an anti-industrial pollution advocacy organisation, EARTH (Ecological Alert and Recovery-Thailand), at least 25 sites concerning hazardous or industrial waste and pollutions have been plotted in its new map to try to help locate the problems for the public. EARTH said this is just the start and it expected to see more. 

Among the longstanding hazardous waste-related problems are the clean-ups and recovery and recycling processes themselves, which are challenging the existing regulation and management plans, as seen from the cases in Ratchaburi and Rayong provinces. These cases were recently captured on camera by Thai News Pix’s photographer, Panumas Sanguanwong

SPRC’s workers prepared oil spill containment booms at Mae Ramphueng beach to try to contain the spill of crude oil from the pipeline under the company’s SPM on the night of January 25. Aside from the booms and absorbent sheets, the company tried to deploy other measures including dispersant spraying over the spilt oil and vacuum trucks to try to remove the oil as much as possible.
Photo: ©Panumas Sanguanwong
The Pollution Control Department used a modelling, Oil Map, to project the movement of the oil slicks in the sea and found that they were likely to move into the coastline of Mae Ramphueng Beach and Khao Lam Ya-Samed National Park on January 28. 
Navy officers and the company’s workers rushed to clean the beach using absorbent sheets to absorb the oil as much as possible. On January 29, Rayong Governor decided to impose a ban on swimming in the area for public safety.
Photo: ©Panumas Sanguanwong

Immediate impacts of the oil spills on the environment could be observed from life on the beach. Seen in the photo were ghost crabs soaked in the oil that was washed ashore where they inhabited. Such impacts are subject to controversy as state agencies and concerned parties hardly disclose the studies to the public if there are any.
Photo: ©Panumas Sanguanwong

Firefighters and rescue volunteers rushed to the scene and tried to control the fire that broke out of an explosion within a foam pellet and plastic factory, Ming Dih Chemical Co., Ltd in Bang Phli district, Samut Prakan province, in the early morning of July 5 last year.

The Commission of Insurance Commission (OIC) examined the initial damage after the incident and found that it had caused damage to houses, factories, and vehicles within a radius of 500 meters. The OIC reported that one person died as a result, while there were more than 30 injuries, more than 70 houses damaged, along with more than 15 vehicles. Other properties were also subject to further examination, according to the OIC, which investigated the company’s insurance policies to see how it could cover the costs and damage.
Photo: ©Panumas Sanguanwong

An officer photographed a helicopter of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DPP), which sprayed chemicals to put out the blazing fire at the factory. Due to the fire, the hazardous chemicals had turned into huge toxic fumes. It dispersed in the air and settled in the environment nearby including the water sources.

This incident led to various questions on city planning, disaster management and preparedness, and last but not least, existing industrial works and substances regulation, as well as environmental rehabilitation from such an incident.
Photo: ©Panumas Sanguanwong

The factory’s workers as well as other residents who lived within a five-kilometer radius had to evacuate their homes to nearby evacuation centres for safety. It was reported that up to 2,000 people had to evacuate due to the incident. It was not until the officers managed to control the situation in the next few days that they were allowed to return to their residence.
Photo: ©Panumas Sanguanwong
The staff at Ecological Alert and Recovery-Thailand (EARTH) visited communities in Namphu Sub-district in Ratchaburi Province and the areas nearby claimed to have been affected by the recycling plant of Wax Garbage Recycle Center Co., Ltd. They collected samples of soil, water, and plants there for lab tests.
The residents said they have been affected by bad odour from chemicals and wastewater from the plant for many years before fighting the case in court. They claimed that their farms and orchards have been affected by the polluted water and they cannot grow other plants. Their longans good for export were strained and dead, for example. 
Photo: ©Panumas Sanguanwong
The Nam Phu residents won the case in court on December 24, 2020, but the company appealed. The Court of Appeal in February this year issued an order dismissing the defendant’s appeal request without granting a respite from the execution of the lawsuit for the company in accordance with the First Court’s ruling. 
The company was ordered to pay compensation and clear toxic contamination. It must also rehabilitate the polluted environment in the communities. The work by the company, however, is seen as being sluggish in the eyes of anti-pollution advocates.
Photo: ©Panumas Sanguanwong

Several farm plots in Nong Phawa community near a hazardous waste treatment plant of Win Process Co., Ltd. in Ban Khai district in Rayong province have been contaminated by chemicals and wastewater. Fully grown trees like rubber and betelnuts were left strained and dead.

Nong Phawa reservoir nearby has also been contaminated to the point that the water cannot be of use and a sign imposing a ban on the use of water is erected to warn people there.

The Pollution Control Department ever inspected the quality of surface and groundwater both around the plant and in farm plots nearby. It found contamination of heavy metal substances in the water, which was also highly acidic.

The residents there said that they have been affected by the pollution for many years and they too have fought the case in court. 
Photo: ©Panumas Sanguanwong

Various colours of the water source in Nong Phawa community in Ban Khai district in Rayong province reflect the danger of toxic contaminants in the water, which is claimed to be a result of the leakage of wastewater and chemicals from a hazardous waste treatment plant of Win Process Co., Ltd.
The Pollution Control Department ever inspected the quality of surface and groundwater both around the plant and in farm plots nearby. It found contamination of heavy metal substances in the water, which was also highly acidic.
The residents there said that they have been affected by the pollution for many years and they too have fought the case in court. 
According to the Industrial Works Department, which supervises the cleaning efforts, the Rayong Provincial Court on March 25, 2021 issued a ruling, ordering the company to dispose of and treat all the waste at the plant. This includes 4,000 tons of iron dust and slag, 800 tons of liquid and sludge in concrete pits, unidentified liquid chemical waste in containers, contaminated containers and other items found at the plant, plus 14,000 tons of contaminated water in ponds and soil. The deadline for completion was set in March this year.
Photo: ©Panumas Sanguanwong
A warning sign was installed on the roadside in front of a farm of “Uncle Thiap” or Mr. Thiap Samanmitr of Nong Phawa village, where heavy metal contamination was found. The water in a pond on his farm turned blackish, with greenish and orange-hued sediments. His rubber trees were also dead. His farm is located next to the plant.
Photo: ©Panumas Sanguanwong
Nong Phawa representatives were at the court in Rayong to hear the ruling read on December 13 last year. They won the case with the court order instructing the company to compensate 15 affected villagers with the sum of 20 million baht plus 3% interest and rehabilitate their contaminated properties as well as the public properties including Nong Phawa reservoir.  
Like other pollution cases, the villagers realise that this will take a great length of time.
Photo: ©Panumas Sanguanwong
Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production)
Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation)
Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

Since being conceived in 1992 during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, “sustainable development” has become a buzzword that has helped guide development around the world. The goals have followed a steady trajectory of increased emphasis — from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000 to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, strengthening the world’s new development paradigm. At the heart of the SDGs addressed by the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are 17 key goals that call for action by all countries to end poverty and other deprivations. These must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth — all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests, according to the UN. The only challenge is: how to translate all those goals into a strong commitment and action. To flesh out the ideas so that people can understand them easily and therefore take action, Bangkok Tribune has come up with a new project: “SDGs I The Depth of Field”, using its signature style of photojournalism — storytelling through photo essays — to interpret and translate the ideas and challenges behind the goals into powerful visual stories told through the lenses of noted photographers.