Samui exposed to toxic pollution

Feature story - March 8, 2005
Greenpeace today alerted the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) about the very high level of toxic pollution that is plaguing the resort island of Samui - warning that this may have a negative impact on the tourism industry of the island.

"We would like to warn the TAT and the public that dioxin pollution can jeopardize the tourism industry of Samui. We are asking TAT to help in implementing ecological waste management solutions in key tourist destinations like Samui to boost tourism, instead of supporting incinerators which tarnishes Thailand 's reputation as a major tourist attraction. The only way to save the future of Samui from dioxin pollution is by immediately stopping the operation of the waste incinerator and replace it with ecologically friendly waste management options," said Tara Buakamsri of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

A study conducted in December 2004 by CUB Co., which operates the incinerator, revealed that dioxin concentrations released by the incinerator have exceeded the standards set by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment by more than 200 times. Dioxins are a class of chemical compounds widely recognized as some of the most toxic chemicals ever made by humans. These chemicals are associated with a wide range of health impacts including on the development of foetus and immune system problems Dioxins are produced as unwanted by-products of industrial processes such as incineration, PVC manufacturing and smelting of metals. Once emitted into the environment, dioxins can be transported vast distances through air and ocean currents.

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) which aims to eliminate persistent chemicals like dioxins, identifies waste incineration as a major source of such releases into the environment and recommends the use of alternative techniques and processes which prevent the generation of POPs. While Thailand ratified the Convention in January 2005, the Samui dioxin scandal represents a major obstacle in the implementation of the country's obligations to the treaty.

" Thailand should honor its obligations under the Stockholm convention. We should also aggressively promote zero waste programs," said Tara .

Samui island is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand , famous for its idyllic beaches, five-star resorts and a bustling nightlife. In 1997, the government approved the construction of an incinerator in Kok Khanoon Village , Samui despite warnings of its negative health and environmental impacts. Since then, it has become a monster gobbling up to 50 million baht of taxpayer's money in yearly subsidies, while discharging dangerous poisons to the detriment of local residents and communities. This could have serious and long-term implications for the island's tourism industry, as tourists would definitely not savor vacationing in a dioxin-contaminated destination.

Ironicallly, it is the tourism industry which is responsible for generating most of the waste sent to the incinerator. As such, the solution to this problem also lies in the tourism industry , particularly if it can organize itself to implement ecological waste management programs in Samui island, which will not only generate local employment but will also preserve the clean and pristine environment of this famous tropical paradise.

Note to Editor :

Dioxin measurement from the incinerator stack of Samui incinerator plant done by SGS ( Thailand ) are as follows:

Date Dioxin (total)

Standard = 30 ng/Nm3 Dioxins and Furans-TEQ

Standard = 0.5 ngTEQ/Nm3 Measured Adjust O2 7% Measured Adjust O2 7% May 7, 2003202.1 0.9 August 2, 2003 4254.4 7300.8 21.191 36.365 December 12, 2003 1,329 2,309 12.298 21.368 January 21, 2004 1,469 2,552 14.77 25.67 May 19, 2004 1,712 2,867 16.57 27.76

Source : Feasibility Study Report on Dioxin Reduction Guideline for Samui Municipal Waste Incinerator, 2004 done by CUB Co.Ltd.