By Nicha Wachpanich
On 20 July 2022, Bangkok’s Administrative Court dismissed a case proposed by the network of communities and pollution watchdogs to revoke the regulations allowing exemptions for waste to energy power plants from undertaking Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
Waste to Energy technology has become increasingly popular in Thailand and many Southeast Asian countries. In 2015, Thailand’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental amended a regulation to make exemption for any size of WtE project from having to carry out EIA. With hope to reduce the community’s waste problem as well as provide alternative energy, the country is now promoting technology as part of an alternative power plan.
However, the decision has raised concerns about the environmental and health impacts to many communities across the country. In December 2015, the network filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment with the hope to bring back EIA requirements for projects more than 10 MW like it is commonly requested for other types of power plants.
The Administrative Court dismissed the case explaining that the regulation did affect only the rights of the business owners, but not the general public as well as the current impact studying required by the Office of Energy Regulatory Commission is good enough – a study that doesn’t allow people to fully participate according to the environmental rights defenders.
“Nowadays, there are more than 44 WtE power plants across Thailand and from our study, most of them don’t have a good enough pollution control system.” said Penchom Saetang from EARTH, worrying one of the byproducts from the plants is the carcinogen Dioxin.
Most WtE power plants face resistance by the nearby communities such as the case of Toeng district, Chiang Rai in the north of Thailand and Nabon district, Nakhon Sri Thammarat in the south.
“Thailand is now diminishing the environmental and health assessment standard saying that EIA is not necessary” explained Somnuck Jongmewasin, an engineering expert and member of parliament’s sub-committee that is now studying the impacts of waste management in Thailand.
The networks will appeal the case in the next 30 days.
Photo: Penchom Saetang discussed with community representative by Nicha Wachpanich