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Thailand’s Desperate Battle for a Breath of Fresh Air: The Clean Air Bill That Could Change Everything!

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As the hazy veil descended upon Nonthaburi and the residue from a farmer’s burnt-out pile of straw waste mudded the air, a pressing issue was thrust back into the spotlight. Thailand’s reality echoes loudly in this April photograph captured by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill— the struggle for clean air in a country known for its luscious green rice fields and sparkling blue waters.

The Thailand Clean Air Network (TCAN) and State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation are drawing attention to this weighty subject, prodding the Prime Minister, Srettha Thaivisin, to throw his weight behind a ‘clean air bill’ they had previously presented. This pressing plea made its way to the government complaints centre in the bustling city of Bangkok, carried by a group of twenty earnest representatives.

Their letter, detailed and impassionate, beseeched the premier for quick approval of their proposed comprehensive management of clean air legislation. The communiqué was delivered to Pansak Charoen, a specialist specialist nestled within the Prime Minister’s Office. However, the prime minister himself was out of the country during the submission.

Kanengnit Sribua-iam, a dedicated official of the clean air movement, shared that a slew of similar bills were on the legislative table. The Strategic Transformation Office, the ruling Pheu Thai Party, the Bhumjaithai Party, the Democrat Party and the Move Forward Party – all, she pointed out, had sponsored bills of a similar stance.

The proposed TCAN bill, however, has been brought forth by the public who directly bear the brunt of air pollution and was hence forwarded for legislative consideration under the previous regime of Prayut Chan-o-cha. However, the interpretation of the bill as financial legislation has steered it towards a detour. For propulsion, it requires the prime minister’s endorsement, subsequently placing it under lawmaker scrutiny to be considered for debate. A year has passed since its submission, and Kanengnit believes it’s high time for the decisive nod from the Prime Minister.

What sets the TCAN bill apart is its innovative and potent approach to mitigate air pollution. Unlike others, it offers a distinctive stand, one which the TCAN believes to be potent in the logjam of similar proposals awaiting legislative approval.

Amidst this hue and cry, the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) is taking stringent measures to inspect its fleet of diesel buses, as well as its depots. These actions increase as we approach cooler months, notorious for a surge in air pollution across the sprawling city of Bangkok.

Currently, the BMTA has under its purview 2,075 diesel buses, both with and without air-conditioning. Committed to improving air quality, it has implemented routine exhaust emissions checks before the buses embark on their daily routes. Should a bus fail the test, it is relegated for maintenance.

Simultaneously, the Department of Land Transport, in collaboration with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, has swung into action for exhaust fumes inspections targeting the stationed public buses across 27 city depots. To maintain cleaner atmospheres, these depots are to be cleaned at least once or twice a week, a directive from the BMTA designed to reduce fine dust pollution plaguing the air. Moreover, the BMTA has proposed the acquisition of 2,013 more electric buses, a plan which is contingent on approval from a newly elected executive board—early next year.

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