BANGKOK/PRAGUE - Over the past four years, non-governmental organizations - EARTH (Thailand) (1) and the Arnika Association (Czechia) (2) - formed a powerful alliance with local communities and citizen scientists to tackle toxic pollution in Thailand. Leveraging studies and evidence provided by the NGOs, communities have emerged victorious in a series of hard-fought legal battles. Thai citizens’ access to environmental data has significantly improved thanks to the EU-funded project both organizations implemented together.
Empowering Communities through Legal Victories
Thai citizens have taken on polluters and emerged victorious in multiple legal battles, securing much-needed financial compensation for the harm caused by toxic pollution. For example, the villagers of Nong Phawa have won a trial against the recycling company Win Process, which has to pay half a million euro as reprisal for the death of more than a thousand rubber trees and polluting local water supplies. “It is a step forward in environmental justice. To get here, we had the help of many sectors, from agencies who provided data on environmental monitoring, locals whose determination pushed them to take the problems to court after it has laid chronic for years despite constant complaints, and in this case, the press has an important role in helping push the story to the public, inducing policy-level agencies to come and look,” said Penchom Saetang, director of EARTH. Aside from Nong Phawa, many other communities have also taken steps to sue polluters or negligent government agencies, showing how empowered they have become in the face of industrial encroachment.
The collaboration between local activists and the experts from EARTH and Arnika has yielded crucial evidence and expert insights that have strengthened the cases of affected communities. Many local communities and citizen scientists stated that the project drastically improved chemical safety. More people are aware of the topic and see the importance of fighting back because they can see the results of our fight. This is different from the past when there was little hope for success.
Access to Actionable Data: A Game-Changer
Access to reliable and comprehensive data is a cornerstone of effective environmental advocacy. Recognizing this vital need, EARTH and Arnika have played a pivotal role in providing valuable data from their studies to the Thai communities and international institutions. This spring, they published a study examining Dechlorane Plus's presence in Thai recycling workers' blood. The study, based on an extensive report from the Kalasin area, where electrical waste is processed, confirmed that the local environment, the food chain, and, unfortunately, also people are negatively affected by the effects of substances released here while storing and processing e-waste. Consequently, these documents provided urgency to list Dechlorane Plus for the global elimination under the Stockholm Convention, which actually happened.
Amongst other activities, launching the “Hot Spot Map” application marks a significant milestone in the citizens' fight against pollution. This user-friendly online tool equips individuals with data on pollution hot spots, enabling them to assess relevant data and report environmental hazards. The engagement of citizens through the Hot Spot Map fosters a sense of ownership and collective responsibility for the protection of their communities, further strengthening the impact of the broader anti-pollution efforts in Thailand.
Steps Towards Environmental Justice
“There are signs that Thailand is moving towards a cleaner future. For example, the government's commitment to ban plastic waste imports by 2025 and the country's ratification of the Ban Amendment to the Basel Convention. Pressure from civil society is likely to have contributed to these decisions. However, there are still necessary steps to be taken as adopting the citizen’s draft of the Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) act,” concludes Miroslava Jopkova, project coordinator and adds: “Therefore, after ten years of cooperation, EARTH and Arnika are determined to continue their effort for environmental justice for people in Thailand.”
Disclaimer: ‘The project “Increasing Transparency in Industrial Pollution Management through Citizen Science” is funded by the European Union and co-funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic. This press release’s contents are the sole responsibility of EARTH Thailand and Arnika Association and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.’
(1) Ecological Alert and Recovery - Thailand (EARTH) is a non-profit NGO working for social and environmental justice and sustainability in Thai society. For more information, visit their website: https://www.earththailand.org/en/
(2) The Czech non-governmental organization Arnika focuses on nature conservation, toxics and waste management, industrial pollution, and public participation in decision-making on environmental issues. The organization cooperates with many global partners (e.g. in Ukraine, Armenia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina) to provide a better and healthier future for as many as possible, regardless of the geographical location. Read more at www.arnika.org/en