Thailand takes the lead in environmental challenges
|News date 14-Jul-2004
Environmental News Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment Press Release
July 12, 2004
Thailand takes the lead in environmental challenges in partnership with the World Bank July 12, 2004 - Thailand will be the first country to launch partnership program in environmental protection with the World Bank. The Royal Thai Government, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) and the World Bank announced today a new initiative to tackle Thailand s growing environmental challenges, the Country Development Partnership for Environment (CDP-E).
This new partnership aims at collaborating with the Government and stakeholders to develop and carry out a medium - term reform agenda focusing on air quality, water quality, waste management, and global environment commitments. A cross-cutting theme, strengthening institutions and instruments - particularly instruments for participation, compliance and financing - will be carried out in each of these four areas. The CDP-E will focus broadly on the environmental challenges faced by Thailand.
H.E. Suwit Khunkitti, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, represented the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) at today launch. He commented, 'Natural resources and the environment have become one of the most important national issues that need to be urgently addressed so that they can be restored and remedied. They are emerging as key items on the national agenda needed to improve society, the economy, and standards of living in a sustainable way. The national economic development and the conservation of the environment must go hand in hand. MoNRE has started the new era for restoration of our natural resources and rehabilitation of our environment'.
- Improving environmental quality: Thailand s economic expansion has come with significant environmental costs. Rapid expansion of industry and increasing population, especially in urban areas, has rapidly increased the levels of pollution (solid and hazardous waste, air, noise, and water). Fine particles in Bangkok air continue to exceed standards at major roads and intersection, and 32 percent of surface water is classified as poor and very poor. The resulting risks to human health are high. The CDP-E will work with the Government and others in addressing these issues through such remedies as more effective enforcement of environmental laws; building stronger institutional capacity, both national and local; and increased investments in pollution prevention and control, with private sector participation.
- Sustaining natural resources: Land conversion, slash-and-burn agriculture, and intense exploitation of water have led to rapid deterioration of natural resources. Forest cover fell drastically from 53 percent in 1961 to 25 percent in 1998, and over - harvesting of marine fisheries has reduced fishing yields by 80 percent between 1963-1993 Of particular concern is water scarcity, which occurs against a backdrop of low availability, high pollution, and increasing per capita consumption. In 2000, Thailand ranks the lowest in ASEAN for annual per capita water availability but it ranks 14th in the world in industrial organic water pollution.
Mr. Jemal-ud-din Kassum, World Bank Vice President for East Asia and the Pacific, He commented, 'Hopefully through this new Partnership, we can learn better what works, what does not, and how together we can forge a path for exchange, knowledge, and analysis needed to address the high -priority issue of environmental management today. We value these Partnerships as a unique tool to engage with our key counterparts in Government and other people who are so integral to this issue - civil society, the private sector, academics.'
Mr. Ian Porter, Country Director for Thailand, said, "We see the Country Development Partnership as a tool for knowledge engagement with the Government of Thailand and other international partners. It focuses on analytical and monitoring work with a limited amount of implementation support, if needed, for selected critical issues in Thailand s overall national development agenda - in this case improving the quality and sustainability of Thailand s environmental resources.
To better balance conservation and exploitation of natural resources, Thailand is looking at how it can ensure an integrated approach to sustainable resource management, eliminate harmful subsidies (such as excessive use of pesticides and over-fishing), and assist in the capacity building of local institutions and communities.
H.E. Suwit Khunkitti, Minister, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE), commented, "The rehabilitation of natural resources and the environment requires participation. MoNRE has initiated a project of Natural Resources and Environment for the Village, or Tho So Mo, for people to join together and participate in the management of natural resources and the environment. The concept of this project is to share ideas, join hands, make decisions jointly, solve problems together, and participate in development. This cooperation will lead us to sustainable development".
Mr. Kassum said, "Recent actions and statements demonstrate the Thai Government s commitment to addressing the country s environment and natural resource issues which were overlooked during the high growth years. As Thailand once again returns to a robust growth rate, the challenge is to simultaneously improve both the quality of growth and its sustainability of that growth - - and how to share those lessons with its neighbors who are struggling with similar issues." He cited a number of factors suggesting this an opportune time for the Partnership to begin, including:
- The creation of the new Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE);
- the emergence of environment and natural resource issues on the national agenda;
- a growing international presence on environmental issues, including Thailand s recent ratification of the Convention on Biodiversity;
- recent accomplishments in air quality management;
- a rapidly expanding civil society and community-level environmental movement;
- completion of a number of plans demonstrating government commitment to achieving a high quality and sustainable environment in Thailand - including the plan for the Enhancement and Conservation of National Environmental Quality, the Ninth National
- Economic and Social Development Plan, and the Public Sector Reform Program which created the new Ministry.
H.E. Suwit "Improving environmental quality is one of the four pillars of Thailand s national development agenda, and we feel that this Partnership is an important step in a process taken by the Government to demonstrate our commitment to addressing this fundamental development issue - ensuring economic growth while protecting and managing the environment.
Mr. Kassum concluded, "We think Thailand, in its role as a leader in ASEAN, now has an opportunity to take a leadership role in environmental protection issues. Thailand should embrace this leadership position, both in terms of its own environmental work as well as cross-border regional issues. It can pass on its knowledge - things done well and not so well - to its neighbors and demonstrate that sustainable economic growth can indeed go hand in hand with protecting an environment to pass on to future generations."
Contact : Jiranun Hempoonsert (jiranun(dot)h(at)pcd(dot)go(dot)th)