'Earth' flags heavy metal levels

'Earth' flags heavy metal levels

Environmental activists have called on the government to urgently come up with measures to curb pollution after eight provinces were found to have levels of accumulated heavy metals that exceed safety limits.

The petition was lodged at the Prime Minister's Operation Centre yesterday by 30 representatives from the Ecological Alert and Recovery-Thailand (Earth) organisation as well as people representing six provinces.

The group said it carried out a joint examination of heavy metal contamination in sediment retrieved from water resources close to the industrial zones of eight provinces and found that several heavy metals were over the limits set by the Pollution Control Department.

The study was conducted by Earth and experts from Arnika, a non-governmental organisation based in the Czech Republic, as well as the University of Chemistry and Technology in Prague. The provinces were Rayong, Loei, Prachin Buri, Samut Sakhon, Samut Prakan, Chachoengsao, Saraburi and Khon Kaen.

Four of these -- Rayong, Loei, Prachin Buri and Samut Sakhon -- were found to have unsafe levels of heavy metal accumulation, the group said, adding that the situation is urgent.

In these areas, agencies must find a way to control these toxic levels of pollution and curb the release of hazardous substances to mitigate the negative impact on people's health and the environment, the campaigners said.

More studies are needed in the other four provinces to assess the condition of the surrounding environment, including air quality, and to ensure pollution does not intensify, the group said.

The government plans to expand industrial zones in provinces like Rayong, Prachin Buri and Khon Kaen but it must check to make sure they can handle the associated pollution, said members of Earth.

More efforts should be made to fine-tune economic development so it does not harm the environment, they said.

The group also urged the government to speed up its reform of industrial pollution management.

It called for local people to team up with concerned parties in areas where villagers' complaints are not properly addressed in order to promote conservation and combat pollution.

The petitioners said a number of communities cannot trust their daily drinking water due to industrial pollution.

Government representatives promised to relay their concerns to the right ministries.

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