A Supreme Administrative Court judge has recommended that a 2006 lower court decision holding the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) liable for creating air pollution be upheld.
The judge delivered his opinion to the five-member chamber of the Supreme Administrative Court yesterday. The Foundation Against Air Pollution and for Protection of the Environment (FAAPPE) filed the civil lawsuit against the BMTA _ the city's bus operator _ and the Department of Pollution Control.
The chamber will choose whether to accept the judge's opinion when it makes its final ruling.
Once the chamber makes its final ruling, there will be no further avenues for appeal.
The BMTA was accused in 2002 of allowing public buses in the greater Bangkok area to emit excessive quantities of air pollution.
The Central Administrative Court ruled in 2006 that the BMTA was guilty of failing to provide acceptable public buses. The court ordered the bus operator to improve engine maintenance across its fleet and report the results of emissions tests every three months for the next year.
In its 2006 ruling, the court cleared the Department of Pollution Control of charges that it failed adequately to deal with the pollution case.
The BMTA appealed against the 2006 decision. The FAAPPE also appealed, contesting the ruling that cleared the pollution department.
The Supreme Administrative Court judge who heard yesterday's appeal said the BMTA was strictly bound in its duty to provide a quality service to the public by providing buses in good condition.
He said this was clearly stated in the Land Transport Act.
The judge said any bus that emitted excessive air pollution must be banned from public service.
He added that the BMTA operates more than 14,700 buses, but has only 33 pollution inspection machines, not nearly enough to properly test all of its vehicles.
According to the BMTA's own regulations, buses must undergo emissions checks every 15 days.
If the amount of black smoke is more than 50% above the accepted standard, the bus is supposed to undergo repairs before returning to service.
"It is a fact that the [BMTA] public buses have emitted black smoke into the air in the capital and nearby provinces. The appeal made by the BMTA therefore appears to be groundless," the judge said.
The judge also recommended that the ruling favouring the Department of Pollution Control be upheld. He said the department had done its duty to deal with the bus emissions problem.
The judge explained that the department had gone to reasonable lengths in the case, including providing pollution measurement equipment to inspect the buses and informing the BMTA of the test results.
Srisuwan Janya, president of the Stop Global Warming Association and lawyer for the FAAPPE, said the BMTA had ignored the 2006 court ruling. But he said the judge's opinion had increased confidence that the original verdict would be upheld.
"We expect to see the results within a month. It is a new chapter for a better environment in the capital. The BMTA will have to take the emissions problem more seriously," Mr Srisuwan said.
"If we still see black smoke from public buses, disciplinary action will be taken against the people responsible."
About the author
- Writer: Apinya Wipatayotin