Illegal dumping, also known as fly-tipping, is a significant environmental problem in Thailand. Despite the existence of laws to regulate the disposal of waste, there are still many cases in which people dump their garbage in unauthorized areas. These sites are often located in public areas, such as forests, waterways, and empty lots, which negatively affect the environment and public health. The problem is exacerbated by the lack of awareness of proper waste management practices and the limited resources of local authorities to enforce the relevant laws.
Actual Cases of Illegal Dumping
There are many examples of famous illegal dumping cases in recent years, such as:
- In 2019, a case of toxic waste dumping was reported in the Nakhon Ratchasima province, where a large amount of hazardous industrial waste, including used batteries, was found dumped in a forest;
- In 2020, a case of chemical waste dumping was reported in the Rayong province, where a large amount of used engine oil was found dumped in a public area; and
- In 2021, a case of illegal dumping of chemical waste was reported in the Chonburi province, where a large amount of hazardous industrial waste, including chemical drums and used lubricants, was found dumped in a public area.
Last year, another large case of illegal dumping of wastewater and industrial waste was reported in Chachoengsao province, where a large amount of used lube oil, lightbulb, contaminated sediment, chemical bottles, and mold for toilet bowl were found. The Department of Industrial Works reported that there have been 13 cases of industrial waste dumping at the same area which is an intersection between Nong Nae district and Plang Yao district.
Ms.Penchom Saetang, Director of the Environmental Conservation Foundation, made a statement in the Foundation’s website in September 2022 that collection of data from the Eastern region and other areas from 2017 to 2021, have found up to 280 incidents of illegal industrial waste dumping scattered throughout various areas of Thailand with the highest concentration being in Samut Sakhon province, Samut Prakan province, Ayutthaya province, Pathum Thani province, Ratchaburi province, and the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), which includes Rayong province, Chonburi province, Chachoengsao province, and even reaching as far as Prachin Buri province and Phetchaburi province.
Ms. Penchom expressed that it is difficult to apply the law to punish illegal dumping of industrial waste because it must be clearly proven that the waste dumped is industrial waste and whether it is hazardous or not. If it is hazardous, it must also be identified whether it is the same type of hazardous waste declared in the Ministry of Industry’s list. To do so, a sample must be sent for testing to determine if it contains any impurities that match the declared list.
This process is complex and time-consuming. It requires a significant amount of resources to determine whether the waste is hazardous or not. Furthermore, the punishment for illegal dumping of waste and untreated wastewater is severe, but it has only a one-year statute of limitations. Additionally, the fine for illegal dumping is only 200,000 bahts, which is lower than the cost of proper waste disposal. As a result, the perpetrators have no fear of the law.
If the wrongdoer cannot be found, the government will be responsible for the impact that has occurred. In reality, however, the government is limited in its ability to do much, leading to areas where illegal dumping has occurred remaining unresolved, particularly those for which the Department of Industrial Works are directly responsible. There is no real ability to do much in this matter, and there has been no development of organizational capabilities.
Due to the problems of weak laws and limited ability of the government to take action, there has never been any remediation in the areas affected by illegal dumping. The amount of fine at 200,000 bahts is smaller than the cost of properly managing the enormous amount of waste and remediation seen in the news, Ms.Penchom explained.
These cases highlight the serious environmental and health risks posed by illegal dumping of industrial and chemical waste. Such waste must be disposed of in a proper and responsible manner, and offenders must be held accountable to prevent further harm to the environment and public health. However, for all these cases, the culprits have never been identified or caught. This may be due to lack of investigation tools for the governments.
The environmental impacts of illegal dumping are numerous. Dumped waste can release toxic chemicals into the soil and water, leading to long-term environmental damage. It also creates a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other disease-carrying insects, posing a significant risk to public health. In addition, the unsightly appearance of illegal dumpsites can have a detrimental impact on the tourism industry, which is a significant source of revenue for the country.
Countermeasures against Illegal Dumping
The government of Thailand has recognized the severity of the problem and has implemented various measures to combat illegal dumping. For example, the Thailand government has also invested in waste management infrastructure to improve waste collection and disposal systems. It has provided financial support to municipalities to establish waste transfer stations, landfills, and recycling facilities. The government has also established a system of waste-to-energy plants, which generate electricity by burning waste.
In addition, the government has partnered with the private sector to address the problem. Many corporation initiatives have been launched to promote sustainable waste management practices, including recycling programs and the use of eco-friendly packaging materials. The government has also worked with NGOs to promote community-based waste management programs and has provided funding to support these efforts.
Recently, on March 13th, 2023, the Ministry of Industry (MOI) and the Royal Thai Police (RTP) jointly signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on cooperation in preventing and combating illegal dumping of industrial waste. The signing ceremony was attended by Dr. Nattapong Rangsipol, the Permanent Secretary of the MOI, and Police General Damrong Sakdiprapat, the Commander-in-Chief of the RTP, with witnesses including Dr. Julapong Taweesri, the Director-General of the Department of Industrial Works, and Police General Torasak Sukhavimol, the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the RTP, as well as high-ranking officials from both agencies.
The memorandum of understanding on cooperation in effectively enforcing laws related to the illegal dumping of industrial waste aims to enhance the ability to enforce laws related to solving the problem of efficient illegal dumping of industrial waste. This includes jointly inspecting suspected factories with a potential for illegal dumping, as well as other related actions, to bring offenders to justice and compensate for any damage caused to the public.
Dr. Nattapol Rangsitpol, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Industry, revealed that the industrial sector plays a crucial role in driving the country’s economy, as reflected by its contribution of over 34% of Thailand’s GDP in 2022, worth more than THB 17.4 trillion. Currently, there are a total of 73,382 factories in Thailand, most of which are businesses that provide job opportunities, distribute income, and operate in a responsible and environmentally friendly manner. However, there are still a small number of factories that do not comply with the law and illegally dump industrial waste, resulting in negative impacts on the environment, public health, and the image of the entire industrial sector.
The cooperation between the two organizations in this memorandum is intended to work closely together for swift and efficient enforcement of the law, with the Ministry of Industry providing support in terms of information and data analysis in legal proceedings against those who illegally dump industrial waste, including identifying hazardous or toxic waste, and other related information. This includes analyzing waste in areas where illegal dumping is suspected.
Police General Chakthip Chaijinda, the Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police, said that the Royal Thai Police will conduct inspections of public areas and general areas that are prone to or randomly at risk of illegal industrial waste dumping. The investigation will collect necessary evidence and testimonies to proceed with legal action against offenders in accordance with the policy of the Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police to “address crime problems that cause public unrest and drive important government policies.”
Dr. Julamongkol Thaweesri, Director General of the Department of Industrial Works, added that the department currently uses IT systems to monitor and manage industrial waste disposal. However, there are still individuals who violate the law and illegally dump industrial waste, including in private areas, old pits, and abandoned land. In the past 10 years, there have been no fewer than 78 cases of illegal dumping of industrial waste, which have had a negative impact on the environment, surrounding communities, and agricultural food chains contaminated by hazardous chemicals. Therefore, this cooperation is aimed at preventing and cracking down on illegal dumping of industrial waste and reducing the negative impacts on communities and the environment in an efficient manner.
On March 13th 2023, Department of Industrial Works published Ministerial Regulation No. 28 under Factory Act. B.E. 2535 (1992) that requires all factory that generate waste or unused material under factory law or factory that dispose, treat, or manage waste or unused material must compile report on waste or unused material. This is another effort to obtain information on how much waste is generated from each factory and if amount of waste managed matches with that of waste generated.
Accelerating Waste Management Compliance
While these efforts may have been successful in reducing the amount of illegal dumping, much work still needs to be done. The lack of awareness of proper waste management practices remains a significant challenge, as does the lack of resources available to local authorities. The government must continue to invest in waste management infrastructure and promote sustainable waste management practices to address the problem comprehensively.
In conclusion, illegal dumping is a severe environmental problem in Thailand, posing significant risks to public health and the environment. The government has taken steps to address the issue, including implementing laws and regulations, investing in waste management infrastructure, and promoting sustainable waste management practices. Recent cooperation with Royal Thai Police will hopefully result in better investigation of culprits. However, much more work is still needed to create a cleaner and safer environment for all.