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New laws needed to save environment

LEGAL CHANGES are needed to allow people more power to manage environmental problems at both local and national levels - as well as the establishment of environmental funds - to improve the quality of the environment, a seminar was told yesterday.

Such recommendations came from hundreds of environmental experts and civic groups attending the seminar about environmental management of the ecosystem and public participation.

Bantoon Setsirote, a director of the Good Governance for Social Development and Environment Institute (GSEI), said the participants had brainstormed environmental problems still plaguing the country and offered solutions.

To reduce the impact of industrial pollution, they said, the government must revise at least three laws relating to hazardous industrial waste and pollution management and control: the 1992 Enhancement and Conservation of National Environmental Quality Act, the 1992 Factory Act, and the 1992 Hazardous Material Act.

Revision of these three laws would allow locals to join the government in monitoring the mismanagement of hazardous industrial waste in local areas. Financial measures, such as setting up environmental funds to collect tax from polluters, would be another key solution.

Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and Environmental and Health Impact Assessments (EHIAs) of projects deemed likely to be harmful to the environment and health must be reformed, speakers said.

There were many loopholes allowing project operators to easily get approval from state agencies, they said.

Currently, the owner of a possibly harmful project or activity can hire a consultant to make an EIA or EHIA.

As a result, environmental reports rarely appear to reflect the real problems and come up with effective measures to reduce the environmental impact.

To resolve this problem, an independent organisation tasked to compile the EIA and EHIA reports was needed.

Moreover, a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) to gauge the overall impact of a project - such as its social effects - was also needed to boost the quality of environment and living, Bantoon said.

The seminar was hosted by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry at Impact Muang Thong Thani to mark the annual National Environmental Day.


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