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Thailand Environment

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   Overview
   Improving Environmental Quality

   Sustaining Natural Resources 
   Ozone Depleting Substance      
 

 


The information on this page reflects some of the main environment issues for Thailand and some of the initiatives that the World Bank is undertaking to address them.


Overview

Thailand’s economic growth over the last three decades has been fueled and accompanied by rapid industrialization, urbanization, and by intensified agricultural production and fishing. This growth, which has relied extensively on the country’s abundant and diverse natural resources, has degraded land and water quality, caused the loss of natural habitats, and generated increasing levels of air and water pollution. In response, the Government and people of Thailand have launched new initiatives to improve air and water quality, reforest degraded land, adopt energy efficient technologies and invest in pollution abatement schemes.

In recent year, the World Bank’s relationship with Thailand has evolved from lender to knowledge-sharer. Exemplifying this new role, the Bank and government have recently established a Country Development Partnership for Environment (CDP-E) (see below), which focuses on improving environmental quality and sustaining natural resources through knowledge-sharing and demonstration.


Improving Environmental Quality
 
Rapid industrial expansion and population growth have outpaced environmental management, resulting in sharply increased pollution levels (e.g. solid and hazardous waste, air, noise, and water). For example, fine particles in Bangkok’s air exceed WHO standards by 2.5 times, and other air pollutants are also causing major health impacts. Overall, it is estimated that air and water pollution costs the country 1.6 - 2.6 percent of GDP per year.

The Government’s decision to phase out leaded gasoline has reduced ambient levels of lead, and there are also signs of greater private sector interest in environmental quality. For example, the country's oil and gas conglomerate (PTT), is investing in Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), a much cleaner fuel source, and has said that CNG will account for 10 percent of all fuel used in the next five years.

Volumes of untreated domestic sewage, industrial wastewater and solid hazardous wastes have risen dramatically in recent years. The result is that roughly one third of Thailand’s surface water bodies are considered to be of poor quality. Clearly Thailand needs to focus on more effective enforcement of environmental laws; stronger institutional capacity, both national and local; and increased investments in pollution prevention and control, with private sector participation.
 
The Bank’s main platform for helping Thailand address these issues is its new CDP-E. It focuses on three specific themes—air quality; water quality; and waste, toxics, and chemicals—and one cross-cutting theme—institutions and instruments. 
 Air Quality: The focus in this area is on supporting the government’s continuing efforts to reduce fine particulate matter in Bangkok.
 Water Quality: Integrated watershed management will be addressed by piloting the “area-function-participation” approach in priority watersheds. The Ping River Basin in Northern Thailand has emerged as the priority. In addition, the CDP-E will selectively target point sources of pollution, such as manufacturing and livestock enterprises, and municipal wastewater treatment facilities.  
 Waste, Toxics and Chemicals: The thrust will be the continuing efforts to support the government and private sector in reducing ozone-depleting substances and carbon dioxide, and to initiate new efforts to contain other selected harmful chemicals. In waste management, the focus is to expand reuse and recycling efforts and improve disposal practices. 
 Institutions and Instruments: The Bank previously supported analytical studies that helped  to establish the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. The CDP-E will now focus on strengthening environmental compliance and financing.

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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. Measures taken by government in the late 1980s to prohibit logging have begun to pay dividends, and the deforestation rate has fallen to 0.2 percent/year. However, the legacy of deforestation is creating other environmental problems, such as conversion to dry lands, sedimentation of rivers, and loss of natural habitats. In the fisheries sector, over-harvesting of marine fisheries has reduced fishing yields by 90 percent, and coastal areas have been seriously degraded by expansion of capture fishing, shrimp aquaculture, industry and tourism. Of particular concern is water scarcity, which occurs against a backdrop of low availability, high pollution, and increasing per capita consumption. There is tremendous pressure on Thailand's water resources, as the country ranks the lowest in Asia for annual per capita water availability, but it ranks 14th in the world in industrial organic water pollution.

In order to improve the balance between conservation and exploitation of natural resources, the country needs to ensure an integrated approach to sustainable resource management, to eliminate harmful subsidies (e.g. for pesticides and over-fishing), and to assist in the capacity building of local institutions and communities. The main platforms for World Bank assistance will be the CDP-E and the GEF-supported Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem Management Project.

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Ozone Depleting Substances 

In order to phase out its use of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS), the World Bank is helping Thailand implement a National CFC Phase-out Plan. One element is the phase out of 241 Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP) tons of Methyl Bromide, a plan that has been approved by the Executive Committee of the Montreal Protocol (Excom). Numerous other initiatives have been implemented, such as i) new regulations to incorporate Mobile Air Conditioner inspection as part of the existing vehicle safety, ii) inspection and CFC import quotas, and iii) bans on the use of CFCs (e.g. manufacturing sector). Another example of World Bank support in this process is the Thailand Building Chiller Replacement Project, which helped to introduce non-CFC chillers. 


For more details on our environment-oriented assistance to Thailand, visit the Thailand Country Page.

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