'Rubbish crisis' looms

Thailand faces a looming "garbage crisis" if the government fails to allocate more funding to improve waste management, the Pollution Control Department has warned.

PCD chief Wichien Jungrungruang said the amount of household waste being generated nationwide had been increasing for years without any matching government investment, prompting many illegal dump sites to open.

These illegal tips are often poorly managed and can cause significant environmental and health impacts, Mr Wichien said,  adding his department was now attempting to survey the exact number of illegal dumps around the country.

The move follows a massive fire at Phraeksa rubbish dump in Samut Prakan last month, which forced the evacuation of thousands of residents due to health fears. Fires have also been reported recently at illegal tips in Surat Thani and Lampang.

Mr Wichien urged the government to set aside a larger budget for the installation of better waste management facilities to respond to the growing amount of household rubbish.

According to PCD figures, urban dwellers produce 1.89 kilogrammes of garbage per day per person, almost double the national average of 1kg per day.

“With fast-growing amounts of waste being generated, the country will face a garbage crisis in the next two years if the government fails to allocate more funding for efficient waste management,” Mr Wichien said.

Properly disposing of all household waste across the country would cost about 70 billion baht per year, he said.

However, agencies in charge of garbage disposal are hampered by a law which caps the collection fee charged to residents at 40-70 baht per month.

It means authorities can only collect about 10 billion baht from the fees per year.

Local administrations, which are responsible for waste management in their localities, are reluctant to to raise the fee, or do not even collect the fee at all, for fear that it will affect their political base in future elections.

While local roads and households might be free of rubbish, the waste ends up being dumped illegally elsewhere, Mr Wichien said.

Local administrations countrywide are forced to stretch the 10 billion baht raised from garbage collection fees to deal with some 26 million tonnes of waste each year, he noted.

The PCD chief urged concerned agencies to increase the garbage-collection fee ceiling to allow local administrations to better tackle waste management issues.

He said the Phraeksa garbage dump fire exposed the fact that there were a number of illegal and poorly-managed dump sites in the country.

It also revealed the amount of waste being generated in Samut Prakan province was much higher than the PCD had estimated.

Mr Wichien said the PCD had earlier estimated that the province had about 2 million tonnes of accumulated rubbish, but officials had since discovered that there was about 6 millions tonnes of trash at the Phraeksa dump site alone.

Police have so far charged two people responsible for the dump site for negligence in causing the fire, while residents affected by the blaze and pollution from the garbage dump have filed lawsuits against the tip's operators and authorities.

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