Environmental protectioni Air quality
Air emissions are regulated by the MNRE, the Ministry of Industry (MOI) and the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH). The MNRE, through the PCD, has issued a notification that prescribes ambient air standards and tests methodologies for carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, suspended particulate matter, ozone and lead. Air quality standards are specified under various regulations, including announcements of the Pollution Control Committee, announcements of the PCD, and notifications of the MNRE. Currently, there is no specific legislation that gathers all air quality standards. The standards and average amount for each type of substance in the air are set out in separate laws and regulations.
The PCD is also responsible for identifying structures, operations and conveyances deemed to be sources of air pollution that must control the release of air pollutants. Once a place of origin has been identified, it is the duty of the owner or lessor of that place to install an air pollution treatment system and any other equipment or tools to limit or eliminate pollution that may affect air quality, with approval from PCD officials.
The MOPH is the agency that regulates business detrimental to health. Under Thai law, any business that pollutes by releasing a large amount of noxious gases is categorised as a business detrimental to health, and the owner must obtain a licence to operate it. Businesses detrimental to health regarding air quality problems are those that collect and burn coal, mining, and metal smelting and forging.ii Water quality
Various laws have been enacted and implemented regarding water quality and water effluent issues. The Navigation in Thai Territorial Waters Act, B.E. 2456 (1913), as amended in B.E. 2540 (1997), contains provisions that prohibit a person from discharging anything into a watercourse that could cause pollution, harm aquatic plants and animals, or obstruct navigation unless permitted otherwise. A similar prohibition is stipulated in the Fisheries Act, B.E. 2558 (2015), and the Royal Irrigation Act, B.E. 2485 (1942), but the latter applies only to 'irrigation canals'. Point source pollution that could affect watercourses is also subject to control by law. The Factory Act, B.E. 2535 (1992) empowers the MOI to regulate effluent standards for wastewater discharged from factories. Under the Public Health Act, B.E. 2535 (1992), in conjunction with the Building Control Act, B.E. 2522 (1979), the Ministry of the Interior may issue a ministerial directive to regulate the discharge of wastewater into watercourses.
The NEB has the authority under the NEQA to issue notifications prescribing environmental quality standards regarding the following matters:
- water quality standards for rivers and canals, marshes, swamps, lakes, reservoirs and other inland public water sources, categorised by use and water catchment area;
- quality standards for underground water; and
- quality standards for seawater and the seaboard, including coastal and estuarine waters.
The NEB is authorised to issue standards for controlling pollution from drainage of wastewater or effluent discharged into the environment, in order to meet the environmental quality standards prescribed by the NEB.
Penalties are imposed under both the Navigation in Thai Territorial Waters Act and the Fisheries Act for the release of pollutants into water sources.iii Chemicals
The main and important legislation that regulates chemicals that are hazardous to health is the HSA. Only certain substances are controlled under the HSA. The HSA prescribes a list of hazardous substances and mixtures under four classifications, each of which has different requirements and prohibitions:
- if the hazardous substance is classified as type 4, it is prohibited to possess, import, export or manufacture it;
- an importer, exporter or possessor of a type 3 hazardous substance must register it and apply for an import, export or possession licence;
- an importer, exporter or possessor of a type 2 hazardous substance must register it and notify the relevant authority; and
- if the hazardous substance is classified as type 1, there is no requirement for the importer, exporter or possessor to register it or notify officials. The importer must submit a declaration to the authority before import
The HSA regulates hazardous substances as well as products that contain them. The governing agency for this is the DIW. However, the PCD will work with the DIW to investigate factories where pollution has been complained about, and if the PCD finds that pollution is related to hazardous waste, it will contact the DIW to investigate and take the case.
There are also other laws that deal with chemicals for specific purpose, such as those relating to employee health and safety that requires, among others, that employers provide employees with sufficient information about each chemical and instructions for use.
The recent update on chemicals regulation in Thailand is the prohibition on the use, trade, manufacture and possession of paraquat and chlorpyrifos by the National Hazardous Substances Committee (NHSC) on 30 April 2020. As a result, on 15 May 2020, the MOI endorsed a notification to re-categorise the two substances from type 3 (permission needed) to type 4 (prohibited for production, importation, exportation and possession).iv Solid and hazardous waste
There is no specific law that governs solid and hazardous waste. However, most types of waste are classified as hazardous substances under the HSA. Thus, procedures and requirements under the HSA will apply to them. For a factory operator specifically, they are obliged by the Notification of the Ministry of Industry and the Announcement of the DIW issued pursuant to the Factory Act to manage their industrial wastes according to the prescribed measures and standards, report waste storage, disposal, and management annually and obtain DIW's approval before transporting the waste outside of their factory, among others.
On 15 September 2020, the Ministry of Commerce announced a ban on the import of 428 items of electronic waste into Thailand, which was the movement to fulfil the Basel Convention obligations. The full list of items can be found on the Department of Foreign Trade's website. Violations are punishable by a term of imprisonment for up to 10 years or a fine of five times the value of the electronic waste imported illegally, or both.v Contaminated land
The Notification of the National Environment Quality Committee No. 25 (B.E. 2547) re: Standards of Soil Quality (the Notification), issued under the NEQA, sets out acceptable levels of soil contamination. The Notification divides soil into two main categories:
- soil used for the purposes of living and agriculture; and
- soil used for other purposes.
The amount of certain compounds in soil will be used to evaluate the acceptable level of contamination for each category of soil. The Notification also establishes specific methods for testing soil for contamination with each type of compound.
Even though the NEQA is the preliminary source law for regulations that govern contaminated land, it imposes no punishment on anyone who degrades soil to a level that does not meet the quality standards. However, strict civil liability may apply if the degradation causes harm to an individual's life, health or property. Currently, there is no definition given for 'contaminated land'. The Notification defines 'standard of soil quality', but does not define substandard soil as 'contaminated land', and the quality standards under the NEQA merely indicate a benchmark for desirable environmental conditions.
Thailand's Land Development Act, B.E. 2551 (2008) (the LDA), empowers the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives to regulate the use of land that uses or is contaminated by chemicals or other materials that could degrade the land's suitability for agricultural use. The LDA also prescribes appropriate measures to remedy land contamination.
Generally, the owner or possessor of the source of pollution is liable to pay compensation for damage, regardless of whether the leak or contamination is the result of a wilful or negligent act. Compensation includes reimbursement for all expenses incurred by the government to clean up any pollution that arises from the leak or contamination. Under the LDA, a polluter must also restore contaminated land back to its original condition, or compensate the state or persons suffering damage from contamination.
Under the NEQA, a landowner or person who possesses land (tenants) is liable to pay compensation and clean-up costs. For example, the owner of a factory is responsible for compensation and clean-up costs regarding the emission of wastewater that causes damage to the public. However, if an owner leases a factory to a tenant and, during the time the tenant occupies the premises, the factory emits harmful wastewater, the tenant will be responsible for the costs.
Under the LDA, the polluter will also be responsible for restoration of the contaminated land to its original condition.