Environmental Problems of Thailand

Table of Content

Thailand, officially known as the Kingdom of Thailand, is a Southeastern Asian country with an area of 514,000 sq. km. and a population of almost 65 million. Although officially founded in 1238, it became a constitutional monarchy in October 1997. King Phumiphon Adunyadet has been its head of state since June 9, 1946, while the government is headed by a prime minister. (ELCA. org. n. d. ) The country was considered an economic tiger during the economic boom which took place during the later part of the 20th century.

However, just like all the other countries in Asia, it was badly affected by the financial crisis of 1997. It was during the lull in economic activities in 1997, however, that the adverse environmental effects of rapid industrialization (which took place the decade before), were observed – among them, air pollution and wildlife extinction. (Energy Information Administration, 2003) Air Pollution Air pollution is a major environmental concern in Thailand.

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In fact, the air over Bangkok, its capital city, was ranked by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) among the most polluted in the world in 1992, afflicting as much as one million people with respiratory ailments and allergic reactions. In 2001 alone, premature death from particulate matter was estimated at 3,300. A total of 17,000 persons were admitted in hospitals and the total cost for health care had been placed at $6. 3 billion. Air pollution in Bangkok is blamed on pollutants emitted by millions of motor vehicles caught in heavy, congested traffic in the metropolitan area. EIA, 2003) Consider, for instance, the fact that the total number of vehicles registered in Thailand reached 20,698,779 in the year 2000. While only about 22% of this total or more than 4. 5 million were registered in Bangkok, it was established that the number of vehicles which were actually being used in the Bangkok area during the year exceeded 12 million, or more than 60% of the total vehicles registered in the entire country. (Srisurapanon & Wanichapun, n. d. ) Air pollution is not only an urban problem in Thailand. The countryside suffers as much from the same problem.

As an example, the harmful emission from the thermal power plant in Mae Moh located some 350 miles from Bangkok, had been causing heart and respiratory diseases among residents of the Mae Moh valley due to the sulfur dioxide emissions of the “13 coal-fired power plants at the complex . “ One incident alone in 1992 caused the hospitalization of over 1,200 villagers. (EIA, 2003) Over in Rayong province, factories at the industrial estate located in Map Ta Phut have also been found to be sources of hazardous air pollutants.

Air samples collected in 2004 showed the presence of cancer agents Benzene and Vinyl Chloride and probable agents Dichloroethane and Chloroform in levels as much as “3,000 times higher than” what is acceptable in developed nations. (Tang & Chamnan-Ua, 2005) Solutions To be fair to the government of Thailand, it has not been idle all these years. In the Mae Moh incident, the Electricity Generating Authority immediately was quick to react by installing sulfur scrubbers, together with the promise that further corrective measures were forthcoming. EIA, 2003) Regarding the urban pollution in the Bangkok area, Srisurapanon and Wanichapun (n. d. ) stated that the government had already started initiating various programs aimed at reducing vehicular emission as early as 1993. Owners of vehicles with engines over 1600 cc were required to install catalytic converters effective January 1, 1993, while those whose vehicles had engines below 1600 cc. were ordered to install catalytic converters by June 1, 1993.

Two years later, in 1995, a vehicular emission standard was established patterned after that of the European Union. To compel adherence to the standard, the two authors said that elements of the “Police Department, Land Transport Department, Department of Pollution Control, and Bangkok Metropolitan. Administration” conducted roadside inspections and penalized erring drivers and vehicle owners. The following year, the use of leaded gasoline was banned in Thailand and was replaced by unleaded gasoline effective January 1, 1996. Moreover, Srisurapanon and Wanichapun (n. . ) said that in addition to the development of “an elevated sky-train system and a subway system,” traffic rules and regulations were strictly enforced to allow for a faster flow of traffic, thereby further reducing vehicular emission. Meanwhile, the Green Fleets Project was conceptualized by the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) in 1999 and was implemented the following year. The project aimed to enlist the cooperation of all stakeholders (i. e. vehicle owners, commuters, the public and the private sectors) in solving the problem of air pollution.

It recognized the necessity of making these stakeholders appreciate the problem fully and allow them to realize that they were an integral part of both the problem as well as the solution. Specifically, the project sought to “downsize vehicles to increase fuel efficiency, [implement] inspection and maintenance program[s], switch to [the] use of cleaner technology vehicles and cleaner fuels, retrofit vehicles with diesel catalytic converters, [and replace] current vehicles with … newer and less polluting ones. ” (Thavisin, 2007. para. 7)

The government of Thailand realized the enormity of their problem so they sought outside help. A five-year technical cooperation agreement was signed between its Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the United States government in October 1999. Under that agreement, an excellent air pollution center was set up and, more importantly, a transfer of technology was facilitated which enabled Thailand to acquire the capability to retrofit diesel engines with catalytic converters to reduce vehicle emission. Embassy of the United States of America, 2004) Apparently, the efforts of the government of Thailand have already amounted to something. According to an environmental report prepared by the World Bank in December 2002, the preceding ten years have seen significant reduction in the levels of carbon monoxide, lead and dust in the air over Bangkok. (EIA, 2003) Wildlife Extinction Another environmental problem being faced by Thailand is wildlife extinction.

This was seen as largely caused by the unrestrained wildlife hunting for trade although some quarters believe that deforestation, aside from having caused habitat loss, have also made the life of the hunters easier. These wildlife species are smuggled out of the country for their culinary, ornamental, and medicinal values, particularly to China, where many wildlife animals and birds are important ingredients of Chinese food and Chinese medicines. In 2002, for example, rampant illegal trade in Pangolins (scaly anteaters), noted for their food as well as medicinal value, was reported.

From June to September alone, attempts to smuggle out of the country more than 3000 Pangolins were thwarted. (Bangkok Times as cited by the Wild Animal Rescue Foundation of Thailand, n. d. ) Birds have also become prime targets for these illegal wildlife traders. In the weekend markets in Bangkok, thousands of birds of different species change hands. Although it had already gone underground in the late 1990s, investigators who monitored twenty-five such markets were able to verify trade transactions involving 72,000 birds.

A fifth of the species that were traded were classified as protected species in Thailand, while the rest were prohibited species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). (Environment News Service, 2002) In spite of the fact that Thailand was already a member of CITES as early as 1983, its failure to implement laws on wildlife protection turned the country into a major transit point for smuggled wildlife species. Thus, in 1991, CITES was forced to prevail upon its members to stop wildlife species trade with Thailand. (Ferguson, 1997) Solutions

In 1992, bowing to pressure from CITES to eliminate wildlife smuggling, Thailand enacted its Wild Animals Reservation and Protection Act, providing, among others, “that trade in wildlife is prohibited unless the wildlife is derived from captive breeding operations. ” (Ferguson, 1997) The Wildlife Fund Thailand (WFT), established with the patronage of Queen Sirikit on October 13, 1983 and tasked to conserve nature and maintain biodiversity, was registered as an environmental protection organization to help out in the implementation of the National Environmental Conservation and Promotion Act of 1992.

Since then, it has contributed to the national effort of conserving the wild elephant, marine turtles and sea cows; rehabilitated the khao Paeng Ma forest to induce wildlife species to return to it; and saved the Toong Yai Naraesuan Wildlife Sanctuary from destruction during the construction of a dam project. As of September 12, 2006, there were more than ten wildlife sanctuaries in Thailand. One of these is the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary situated in a virgin forest near its boundary with Myanmar. As of the latest count, an estimated 676 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and freshwater fish are found in the sanctuary.

Wild water buffalo and peacock are two rare animals found living in the area. Another is the Thung (or Toong)Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary which was previously saved by WFT from destruction. This is consists of a wide area of savannah near the Thanonthongchai Mountain range, where evidence of “hog deer, tapirs, mountain goats, wild water buffaloes and many others” are found. (AsianInfo. org, 2006) Thailand has sufficient environmental laws which could help conserve wildlife and biodiversity. It only needs enough political will to implement them in order to prevent wildlife extinction.

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Environmental Problems of Thailand. (2017, Mar 27). Retrieved from


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