Factories need checks
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Factories need checks

As communities across the country suffer from pollution from irresponsible factories, the cabinet has ordered officials to accommodate investors by fast-tracking over 100 applications to open factories.

The order comes from a cabinet motion on May 6, in response to complaints that business applications are mired in bureaucratic red tape at the Department of Industrial Works, the government agency responsible for granting permits and regulating factories.

Such a pro-investment policy suggests the Srettha government might not know much about industrial pollution or pay much attention to how to solve the problem. During the last two months, the public has witnessed major accidents, such as cadmium leakage at a factory and fires at neglected chemical warehouses in Rayong and Ayutthaya provinces. This week, an explosion took place at a chemical tank at Map Ta Phut industrial estate. So, the public wants to know how the government will make existing factories safe.

These environmental casualties are just the start. For the past few decades, a multitude of pollution cases have arisen in which communities suffered industrial fires, explosions and pollution. Recently, growing reports of pollution have emerged from recycling plants in communities in Ayutthaya, Rayong and Chachoengsao. No matter how much the government wants to see factories open, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin must pay attention to the potential social and environmental impacts or at least obtain a briefing about the factories that his government wants to promote.

The Department of Industrial Works (DIW) says 66% of a total of 187 permit applications come from recycling factories and waste disposal operations. These businesses will treat garbage and toxic waste from other heavy manufacturers. Most have yet to be approved because they lack the necessary paperwork.

The DIW's director-general, Julapong Taweesri, has faced complaints from investors and even politicians after he ordered staff to scrutinise applications, including environmental details because recycling services can damage the environment and cause health impacts. He said the department is trying its best to accommodate investors, but officials cannot simply give out permits as some applicants fail to provide crucial details such as the type of waste to be recycled or space available for waste storage and wastewater treatment.

So instead of rushing officials to accommodate investors, PM Srettha and Industry Minister Pimphattra Wichaikul must give officials time to do their jobs so that permits are given only to projects that are compliant with health and environmental laws.

Instead of hell-bent on promoting investment, the government must help create a better legal system, including efficient mechanisms to monitor factories and protect communities and natural resources. What the government and lawmakers can do right away is pass the Pollutant Release and Transfer Register Bill, which will force factories to report the chemical and hazardous waste they keep.

The Srettha government can also kill off another bad legacy of the junta by scrapping the National Council for Peace and Order 4/2559 in 2016, issued under the Prayut Chan-o-cha government, to promote recycling businesses.

The executive order permits recycling facilities to be located in communities. The public needs a leader who wants to create responsible and sustainable businesses -- not politicians in office keen to boost investment at any cost.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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