Deal struck to curb Thai, Lao car fumes

Deal struck to curb Thai, Lao car fumes

Pollution chiefs confirm plan to harmonise standards for vehicles in the region

Starting soon, customs agents on both sides of the Thailand-Laos border crossings will be checking private cars more closely. (Creative Commons, Flickr)
Starting soon, customs agents on both sides of the Thailand-Laos border crossings will be checking private cars more closely. (Creative Commons, Flickr)

NONG KHAI: The Thai and Lao pollution control agencies have agreed to work together to reduce air pollution caused by vehicles in the two countries, especially at border checkpoints.

A meeting attended by officials from the two countries was held last Thursday near the border post in Nong Khai province, the busiest border crossing between Thailand and Laos that 1.3 million cars cross annually, 70% of which are registered in Laos.

Topics of discussion focused on collaboration to "harmonise" pollution standards and reduce traffic congestion, according to Thalerngsak Phetsuwan, deputy chief of the Pollution Control Department (PCD), who chaired the meeting.

The meeting was held as part of an action plan on the Greater Mekong Subregion's Cross-Border Transport Agreement. The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) is a regional cooperation programme chaired by riparian countries of the Mekong River including Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and southwestern China. The agreement aims to create seamless connectivity and transportation in the region.

According to the cross-border transport agreement, Mr Thalerngsak said: "It is important to have the same standards for all Asean members. What we are going to do is harmonise standards along the borders, which will involve close cooperation among our neighbours."

Virasack Chundara, acting director of Laos' Natural Resources and Environment Institute, said this may take time as each country currently has its own way of doing things.

"We have recently banned the import of second-hand vehicles from foreign countries, including Thailand, in an attempt to reduce pollution from emissions," he said.

However, Mr Virasack said Laos still uses a less strict set of emissions standards. For example, the government still allows sulphur dioxide at 500 parts per million for petrol and 2,500ppm for diesel. Meanwhile, the Thai PCD's standard for sulphur dioxide in petrol is just 50ppm.

According to the PCD's monitoring programmes for cross-border vehicles, emissions from Thai-registered cars tend to be less than those from bordering countries.

At Chong Mek border checkpoint to Laos in Ubon Ratchathani, 10% of Thai-registered vehicles during a random check last year had emissions exceeding the PCD's acceptable level compared to 14% for Lao-registered vehicles.

At the Thai-Myanmar border, at Mae Sai in Chiang Rai province, 24% of Thai-registered cars exceed the PCD's car emissions level compared with 43% of cars with Myanmar registrations.

At the Thai-Malaysia border checkpoint of Padang Besar in Songkhla province, the number of Thai cars that violate emission standards was 24% compared with 31.5% of Malaysian-registered cars.


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