EARTH Thailand

IPEN SEA visits Nampu, Ratchaburi Industrial Waste contamination site



EARTH REPORT 05 February 2022

NGOs from IPEN SEA or International Pollutants Elimination Network Southeast Asia visited the industrial waste contaminated site of Nampu subdistrict Ratchaburi province, Tas part of the learning visit program under the regional strategic meeting.

The NGO groups, all of whom work on issues of pollution, chemicals, and toxic waste in some capacities, first met locals who have fought for environmental justice for two decades. According to Tanu Ngamyingyuad, owner of a longan farm who lost most of it to pollution, explained that since 2000 a recycling factory owned by Wax Garbage Recycle Center company had caused suffering to locals, in the form of air pollution and waste water.

In 2017, Nampu locals filed the first environmental class action lawsuit in Thai history against the company. In 2020, the court ruled in their favor. But 2 years hence, no compensation has been made to locals and environmental restoration remains a distant hope. For this visit, EARTH - Thailand, the host organization hopes to show the problems of waste management as well as how the environmental justice system in Thailand still fails to adhere to the polluters-pay-principle.

One of the IPEN SEA team visited the Nampu creek, one of the most contaminated water bodies in the area. 

“The geological layers of the nampu area is dominated by lime; characteristic of lime is very porous. This means leak or flow of pollutants or wastewater will easily flow to a lower area. Said Yuyun Ismawati of Nexus3 Foundation from Indonesian, and the winner of the 2009 Goldman prize.

“Giving the permit to Wax Garbage Recycle Center to dump the waste inside the property is the first mistake. Had they gone through EIA process, the experts would figure out that waste dumping is high risk activity for this area.”

Yuyun also observed that the growth of reed in the area is an indicator of pollution in the water, because they are plants that absorb pollutants.

The second group went up to the Lom Rua mountain, where locals often monitor the activities inside the factory. More than twice in the past locals have noticed illegal operation in the factory from a spot in this mountain. This led to the court victory in 2020.

Giulia Carlini, senior attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), said “I am impressed by the courage, determination, and organization of the people involved in the Nampu case.” She also added that contaminated sites pose serious environmental and human rights concerns due to the exposure to hazardous chemicals and waste that are affecting the residents. Authorities should ensure that no industry impairs the health and rights of the community.

“Setting up a structure to urgently and effectively implement the polluter pays principle is a crucial element to ensure justice. The victims should secure compensation and receive prompt and adequate restoration.” She concluded.

Lemuel Manalo, Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) from the Philippines noted the importance of community work and citizen science. “It connected me to the community's struggle and story. They have such an inspiring story which reminds me how strong communities needed to be involved in environmental protection.”