Thailand taking action on marine pollution

Thailand is determined to clean up and protect its priceless and beautiful blue waters as the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment announced last week it is developing a plan to deal with the estimated one million tons of garbage and waste spilling into Thai waters each year and threatening its marine ecological system.

In addition, last week Thailand joined the “Upcycling the Oceans” movement, a partnership to clean the oceans of plastics and other waste in a collaboration between environmentalists, advocacy groups and fishing communities. The Tourism Authority of Thailand and PTT Global Chemical kicked off the inaugural clean up event on the island of Koh Samet, a popular beach retreat.

Thai policy makers are keenly aware it is in the country’s best interest to protect its natural resources. Accomplishing that will require a comprehensive approach that would include development of better and more widely available waste management and recycling systems, which are not common in the region.

The first step in addressing the problem will be to conduct a survey, with the results being used to effectively target the worst areas, said Wijarn Simachaya, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

The ministry intends to focus on waste management in the Kingdom’s 23 coastal provinces. These provinces produce an estimated 10 million tons of garbage every day. More than half of that goes into “improper waste management systems,” according to Wijarn.

“The right way to deal with this is to figure out how to reduce waste at home. If we have less garbage on the mainland, we will also see less garbage in the sea,” he said.

Marine expert Thon Thamrongnawasawat, who is working with the ministry, said several ministries and agencies will collaborate on drafting the plan on marine waste management. He said that the plan will most certainly include measures to reduce plastic consumption, area-based management of debris and developing equipment to improve tools for collecting garbage in the sea.

Wijarn said that there might be measures that restrict use of plastics on islands and in coastal areas.

In November, Thailand will host a regional meeting of the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on marine debris management, during which it will encourage all ASEAN members to enforce concrete measures to reduce waste pouring into the oceans.