Sadly Missing Smooth Cleansing
A month after a series of leaks from an undersea pipeline, the oil spill off Rayong remains a major concern.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa reassured the public early on that the spill had been contained, but the reality on the ground – or in the sea, and later, on the beaches – was quite different.
Three spills were reported on January 25, February 10 and again last week – all from the same source. Polluting tarballs were later spotted on several beaches while state lab tests showed high concentrations of toxic chemical residues in water, soil and even the urine of oil cleanup volunteers.
And while affected villagers are praying for compensation from the company responsible for the leaks, as promised, many people are worried about the long-term impact on the local marine impact, economy and community. tourism.
This week, MPs from the Move Forward (MFP) party launched an inquiry into the ministers responsible for handling this dossier to determine whether they were negligent in carrying out their duties in controlling both pollution and private sector activities.
Today, arsonist activist Srisuwan Janya is due to appear in the Administrative Court to file a lawsuit against the Ports Department of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment as well as the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand (IEAT).
He claims that state officials may not have properly inspected the offshore oil delivery facilities of the company in question, Star Petroleum Refining Public Company Limited (SPRC), let alone ensured that it follows good security practices.
Mr Srisuwan is calling for a review of the SPRC’s permits and environmental impact assessment, to see if there are grounds for suspicion of wrongdoing in the way the company obtained the license to operate. operate the facility where the leaks occurred later.
Such measures are commendable, especially at a time when responsible authority and politicians have become eerily silent. A month has already passed and the cause of the leaks is still under investigation.
The case also brought to light the Map Ta Phut industrial zone in Rayong, the country’s largest petrochemical complex, which has garnered controversy and bad press for its pollution management for nearly two decades.
Recent spills have also been poorly managed, with a lack of booms to contain floating oil slicks and an overuse of chemical dispersants that are ravaging marine ecosystems. In fact, the ability to conduct such a cleanup operation has barely improved since the worst oil spill was recorded in this area in 2013.
At that time, the polluter was PTT Chemical Global (PTTCG). Tourist operators and villagers have sued the company, demanding additional compensation to offset the long-term impact on local fishing and tourism industries. For more than a decade, villagers in Rayong have reportedly suffered from respiratory and other illnesses due to their exposure to air pollution and toxic chemicals.
The situation deteriorated so much that in 2008 the villagers sued the local authorities. As a result, the Pollution Control Department (PCD) designated Map Ta Phut district as a “Special Pollution Control Area” the following year. It boosted morale but seems to have had little lasting legacy.
The government and most industrial companies are committed to practicing sustainable development. Now they have to keep up, not just spit hot, polluted air.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent the Bangkok Post’s thoughts on current issues and situations.
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