Implement environmental orders of Thai Administrative Courts : Greenpeace

Feature story - March 5, 2009
Greenpeace today welcomed the two court rulings by the Administrative courts of Chiang Mai and Rayong in Thailand, as a rare tribute to the highest principles of justice, i.e fairness and equity. Greenpeace urges the Government of Thailand to ensure that the orders of the two courts, that are based on the ‘polluter pays’ and ‘precautionary’ principles, are implemented swiftly and with utmost sincerity.

The Mae Moh Coal Plant, in the Lampang province of Thailand. Coal plants cause severe health problems for local people and irreversible damage to the natural environment.

On March 3, 2009,  the Rayong provincial administrative court gave the National Environment Board 60 days to start a cleanup of the polluted industries inside the Map Ta Phut industrial estate and to declare the areas around the estate including, Noen Phra, Map Kha and Thap Ma in Muang district as a pollution control zone meaning the areas must be free from toxic chemicals beyond the permissible safety limits.

On March 4, 2009, the Chiang Mai provincial administrative court  ordered the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) to compensate 240,000 baht for each of the 130 Mae Moh villagers badly affected by the poisonous emissions from a coal-fired power plant in Mae Moh district of Lampang.  The court has also ordered Egat to relocate the affected villagers five kilometers from the power plant and to change its golf course into a forest.

"These two orders are a great victory for the struggle of the past and present victims of Mae Moh and Map Ta Phut provinces and should redeem Thai people's faith in the judiciary. Greenpeace has been a humble partner and ally in the long struggle of the people of these two provinces, who despite failing health, loss of livelihood and threats of violence from vested interests, persisted in exposing the real cost of dirty and unchecked industrial development..."  Said Tara Buakamsri, Campaign Manager of Greenpeace Southeast Asia in Thailand. "The National Environmental Board should redeem itself by immediately implementing proactive mechanisms for 'toxic release inventory' and 'community right to know' as well." he added.

The past Greenpeace Southeast Asia's actions against Mae Moh coal power plant.

In making its landmark decision, the Rayong court cited findings of the Pollution Control Department which showed that 40 volatile organic compounds have been detected in the air in the Map Ta Phut areas with 20 of them carcinogenic and in amounts exceeding safety levels. The National Cancer Institute's study which was also cited by the court showed the cancer incidence rate in Muang district during 1997-2001 was 3-5 times higher than that in other districts. Moreover, surface and underground water in the Map Ta Phut area was heavily contaminated with heavy metals such as nickel, copper, mercury and arsenic compound.

The past actions of  Greenpeace Southeast Asia and other people networks against Map Ta Phut industrial estate's coal power plants.

Mae Moh, Thailand's largest mine and coal fired power plant, began operating on a small scale in the 1960s and was significantly expanded in the 1980s. Every year approximately 1.6 million tons of sulphur gas is released into the air from this power plant, resulting in severe health problems for local people and irreversible damage to the natural environment. The power plant is also estimated to contribute move than four million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere each year. Read True Cost of Coal

"Any attempts by the coal and chemical industry or vested interests in the government to undermine, contest or subvert the Administrative's court order will be gross violation of human rights and detrimental to the health and environment of our children and future generations." said Shailendra Yashwant, Campaign Director Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

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