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Essay Paper on Air Pollution in Thailand

by James Douglas and Kelly McNight

Air pollution in Thailand is considered to be one of the most serious environmental problems in the country. Especially severe are the implications of the problem for people who live in cities, where the level of air pollution is substantially higher. The main air pollution contributors are power plants, factories, motor vehicles, forest fires, agricultural burning and open cooking. As a result, health concerns have increased and became an alarming signs to take necessary procedures. Moreover, the non-health implications are significant as well. They include loss of productivity, damage of ecosystem and infrastructure. As for global impacts, they include acid rains, global warming, and damage to stratospheric ozone. Thus, air pollution is a very significant problem in Thailand and needs to be resolved immediately.

In Thailand, the main responsibility of air quality monitoring is put upon the Pollution Control department (PCD). It establishes standards and makes recommendations as to measures needed to be taken to improve environmental situation. Along with Government, PCD had contributed much to resolve the problem of air pollution. However, there is still much to be done. The main ways to fix the air pollution issue are:

  1. Tightening emission standards for motor vehicles, which are the most significant pollutants.
  2. Improving public transport and traffic management. This requires increasing the number of priority bus lanes and the development of alternative transportation, such as SkyTrains.
  3. Adopting legislature that obliges industries to reduce emission.
  4. Strengthening institutional effectiveness by improving coordination among agencies and building capacities at the local level;
  5. Broadening public involvement in air quality management;
  6. Implementation of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM);
  7. Expanding monitoring policies;

The main obstacles on the way of implementation those policies and means:

  • High cost of acquisition and implementation of advanced cleaning technologies and technologies that reduce emission.
  • Resistance on behalf of corporations to implementation of those technologies because of their high costs.
  • Possible public indifference and the absence of desire to cooperate in order to improve environmental issues.
  • Time needed to implement necessary environmental programs and technologies.
  • Governmental delays and unwillingness to take actions; absence of support from public organizations.

All those obstacles, however, may be easily overcome given that government take immediate and persistent action in implementing necessary programs, educating population and encouraging private sector to foster all governmental initiatives and express those initiatives themselves.

1. Tightening emission standards for motor vehicles

According to public perception polls on the issue of air pollution held in Bangkok, the majority of residents ask (90 % of those the total number of respondents) named motor vehicles the main source of air pollution. Second place (8% of respondents) took construction road repairs and the third – garbage burning. (Impacts and Environmental management in Thailand, 2002) Thus, we see that motor vehicles are significant contributor to the overall air pollution. In order to improve the situation and decrease the level of emission produced y cars and motorcycles, the Thai government needs to foster efficient and less pollute vehicles on one hand, and encourage citizens to use those vehicles on the other hand. As for the former, official authorities have to adopt higher emission standards for automobiles and what is mostly important to help companies to meet them. It can be done in the following way:

  • Tax privileges for companies that produce certain amount of less pollute vehicles;
  • To ensure Governmental orders for those vehicles;
  • To provide financial support for companies who work out special technologies that facilitate the process of creating less pollute vehicles.

To encourage citizens to widely use those vehicles, the Government needs to:

  • Launch special public campaign that would educate citizens informing about benefits they could get buying less pollute vehicles. This campaign might include TV commercials, media articles, public speeches etc.
  • Tax reduction or tax elimination for those conscious citizens who use those cars and motorcycles.

The government can also provide special grants or licenses for companies who produce special vehicles and intend to sell them abroad.

Below, the short overview of special technologies that can reduce the amount of emission produced by vehicles and other necessary procedures pertaining to vehicles polluting capacities is provided.

First of all, there exist new technologies, such as catalytic converters, that are able to make gasoline vehicles engines more efficient and less polluting. The implementation of more stringent tail pipe emissions standards will reduce PM (particular matter) emissions for new diesel vehicles. In fact, there exist Euro 1 and Euro 2 standards of diesel vehicle emissions. The indicators of these standards of emissions are quite high. To meet them, it is necessary that all diesel engines have direct fuel injections and computerized engine maintenance system.

Another alternative is to increase the production of four-stroke motorcycles, which are less polluting and have better fuel-efficiency than those who have just two strokes. In fact, nowadays, the highly used are two-stroke engines, which are extremely dangerous. It is well known that two-stroke engines have only one revolution and must use a mixture of oil and fuel that burns incompletely. Then almost 25% of that oil and fuel is spit out, unburned, through exhaust. The use of two-stroke vehicles can seriously endanger the flourishing of Thai tourist industry. Therefore, four-strokes engine production is very important. The four-stroke versions are much cleaner. The operating cost, however, may be lower as they are more fuel-efficient.

Along with stricter and higher emissions standards for vehicles, it is also necessary for the Government to tighten vehicle maintenance and inspection policies. It means that, for instance, every city should have a special agency that is the head responsible for checking all the vehicles intended for public transportation and those of private use. Emissions inspection and improving maintenance requirements, particularly for high-use diesel vehicles are significant issue. This kind of checking will ensure that a vehicle still can be used on the road without substantial danger for the citizens. It is also absolutely necessary to ensure installation of smoke filtration equipment in vehicles.

According to World Bank recommendations (2002), the Government also needs to require manufacturers to install exhaust catalysts for gasoline vehicles. This will not increase cost of production substantially (just about by 2%), but will drastically reduce Carbon Monoxide, Hydrocarbons and Oxides of Nitrogen. It is also quite efficient to reduce sulfur in diesel fuel. Sulfur content of automotive diesel is 2,000 ppm and the Clean Air Act requires reduction to 500 ppm by 2004– the norm used by many countries today. (World Bank, 2002)

Here, it also necessary to mention that the level of lead should be substantially decreased. Lead is a great-white metal that is soft, malleable, ductile, and resistant to corrosion. Sources of lead resulting in concentration in the air include industrial sources and crustal weathering of soils followed by fugitive dust emissions. Health effects from exposure to lead include brain and kidney damage, and learning disabilities.

Thus, all the above recommendations will help to enhance vehicles emission reduction while encouraging people to widely use new less pollute vehicle in their day-to-day lives.

2. Improving public transportation management

The major problem with public transportation in Thailand is its low level of diversification and thus high level of those transportation vehicles that produce high levels of emission. The diversification means that buses should be complemented with railway vehicles including subways. Skytrain is an excellent low polluting alternative as well. Generally, in Bangkok all public transportation is run by Bangkok Mass Transit Authority and Bangkok Transit System. The first one is in charge of all wheel transport, i.e. public buses. The second one takes care of Thailand light rail system. Both report to the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

To improve public transportation in Thailand, it is necessary to make the following steps:

  • Increase the number of Euro2 buses running. Those are buses that have lower emission and higher speed. As BMTA reports, it has launched Euro 2 buses. Yet, there are not enough of them to satisfy all public needs.
  • Implement more bus lanes to decrease the pressure in peak times. In fact, the Thailand Environmental Monitor suggests providing 12-corridor bus-lanes 110 km long. Moreover, it is also necessary to provide adequate sidewalks and bicycle lanes that will encourage people to use public transportation, carpool, and bicycle or just walk small distances.
  • Implement mass rapid transit system. Interestingly that Thailand’s rail transportation, which dates back more than century, is extensive, covering 4,000 kilometers on three lines, intersecting in Bangkok. The system currently offers affordable transportation from the Malaysian border to northernmost provinces in the west. Thus, it has good capacity. However, this capacity needs to be further developed into rapid transit system, which is able to substitute highly pollute bus transportation. Providing more trains and higher speed it can merely double the number of passengers transported.
  • Develop Skytrain system. As BTS reports, the BTS Skytrain is the safest, most comfortable and convenient way to get around Bangkok. In service since December 5, 1999, it has transformed the face of public transportation in the Thai capital, offering both residents and visitors a comfortable ride through central Bangkok lifting them above the chronic congestion, noise and pollution of the streets below. Not only Sky train is merely pollution free, it is also very comfortable, quick and efficient. The BTS Sky Train’s high-capacity operating system ensures almost no breakdowns and a virtual 100% punctuality. Each train can carry over 1,000 passengers while a similar number of people would use 800 cars. Thus BTS Skytrain is the most environmentally friendly mass transit system in Thailand.  Moreover, it is quite inexpensive and safe. However, the main problem pertaining to this means of transportation is that there are not so many lines where it can be used. Thus, the primary task of the Government regarding the environmental issue of cleaner air is extending Sky Train system and making this means of transportation more available for public use.
  • It is an issue of crucial importance for the Government to promote and assist in production and launching of public transport, which is able to work using electricity, such as electric tricycle, electric bus, and electric-motorcycle. These kinds of products are not yet so much widely used and produced. Those are very commercial products. Therefore, they need special governmental care and support. Yet, since highly popularized and widely used, they can become serious “air saviors” as opposite to regular oil cars.

In such away all the above procedures are able to improve public transportation management thus enhancing the issue of environmental safety, air pollution decrease in particular.

3. Adopting legislature obliging industries to reduce emission

It is very important for Government to oblige industrial firms to cut their pollution levels. Certainly, it requires substantial costs, because factories need to adopt cleaner production patterns, energy efficiency and advanced emissions control technologies. Yet, the problem might occur with small plants, which do not have enough financial resources to afford such substantial investments.

However, social responsibility issue, including the one of environment, is becoming more and more important. Therefore, all the companies need to realize that by cooperating with Government and enhancing decrease in air pollution levels they are actually improving their public image and provide wide market for their products or services. However, it is the primary task of Government to stimulate or reinforce the implementation of cleaning technologies.

The incentives for industrial corporations to implement cleaning technologies may include:

  • Tax extension for a certain period;
  • Tax reduction or tax privileges for implementing certain type of technology;
  • Allowing faster depreciation;
  • Granting certain political privileges;
  • Encouraging cooperation among companies to provide patterns of scientific technology needed to be implemented in internal production processes.

Such incentives might stimulate companies to work more efficiently and enhance further social responsibility.

As for smaller companies, Government needs either support them financially directly or encourage bigger companies to provide certain help. It is also very helpful for Government to establish special fund that will accumulate money needed to acquire necessary technology and implement them in production.

However, it is not only necessary to provide incentives for the companies, but also take serious measures to ultimately punish those who fail to comply with the overall governmental requirements. Those punishments might include:

  • Closure;
  • Temporary closure;
  • Fines.

Here, it also necessary to mention that the level of lead should be substantially decreased. Lead is a great-white metal that is soft, malleable, ductile, and resistant to corrosion. Sources of lead resulting in concentration in the air include industrial sources and crustal weathering of soils followed by fugitive dust emissions. Health effects from exposure to lead include brain and kidney damage, and learning disabilities.

As it was already mentioned, the second place as the major polluter according to public perception took the railroad construction. Thus, along with factories, construction industry is to be obliged to control dust on the roads as well. It should be the responsibility of those construction workers to enhance road cleanness and dust control. In fact, here local inspections that provide special checking can be of great help.

Thus, Government should necessarily provide relevant legislature that would oblige companies to implement pollution reduction technologies on one hand, and provide effective incentives and support to facilitate the process of implementation of those technologies.

4. Strengthening institutional effectiveness

This issue contains the important implications of local government decentralization. Simply saying, in order to enhance and improve institutional effectiveness and thus pursue environmental care it is necessary to:

  1. Improve the coordination between the agencies that have different function regarding the air pollution problems. Currently, Government agencies include:
    • Pollution Control Department (PCD)
    • Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA)
    • Department of Industrial Work (DIW)
    • Department of Land Transport (DLT)
    • Office of the Commission of for the Management of Land Traffic (OCMLT)
  2. Expand local Government role. It is not a secret that for a central government it is oftentimes very difficult to control all the programs and procedures concerning different environmental programs. Therefore, some delegation of authority should be distributed to the lower level in order to enhance efficiency of those environmental problems.

5. Broadening public involvement in air quality management

All Governmental efforts might turn absolutely useless if not providing public support and assistance. Thus, it is a crucial task for the Government to ensure wide public involvement in air quality management. This could be accomplished using the following means:

  1. Broad educational and informational programs, which were already mentioned. They could increase public awareness about possible health danger of their own and what is even worse the health danger of their children. Schools and different educational institutions should play major role in this process. Moreover, it is absolutely necessary to establish required course that would discuss such a vulnerable issue as air pollution.
  2. Involvement of public communities in environmental programs. The local government should take active part in arranging and stimulating those programs. Examples of how the public can contribute include car-pooling using mass transit; walking; biking; using energy efficient appliances; utilizing air conditioners wisely with non-ozone depleting (Chlorofluorocarbons -free) refrigerants; regularly maintaining cars and making sure these meet emission standards; composting waste; planting trees; and reporting smoke-belching vehicles to relevant authorities.
  3. Enforce the ban on waste burning in cities. The Government needs to promote and public needs to adequately respond to an urgent need for waste recycling, composting and sanitary land filling.
  4. Support and collaborate with the private sector, associations, independent groups and all categories of mass media to participate in public relations efforts and campaigns to educate and increase understanding and awareness of hazardous threats from pollutants in air, and be informed of enforcement of laws against all categories of polluters.
  5. It is the primary task of Government to support study, research and training in technologies for control and eradication of polluted air, including improving and maintaining machinery to decrease air pollution. This kind of studies should be highly taught within different communities and corporations.
  6. Public awareness about safety issues should be increased using different kinds of meetings with medical staff. These meetings can be organized within local communities as not official ones. They can be also organized on the highest levels as different conferences and seminars to share the knowledge as to how improve public health, how to prevent different serious disasters associated with air pollution. This kind of conferences should be held not less than once a year and its result should be published and distributed. Society must be engaged in the environmental activities. Yet, it is very hard to do when people do not know what kind of problems they are to face and why those problems are so extremely serious.

6. Implementation of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)

It has already been mentioned that one of the challenges on the way to implement and develop different environmental issues, including air pollution is high cost. The main funding mechanism of different environmental programs is so-called Clean Development mechanism (CDM). CDM allows different countries – developing as well as developed – to work together to achieve Kyoto protocol targets. (Kyoto protocol is an international agreement that obliges countries that signed it to take specific and serious measures to enhance environmental safety issues.) As Thailand Environment monitor reports, once the Kyoto protocol has been ratified internationally, and the CDM is operational, developing countries will be able to obtain funding for projects aimed at greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions, while developed countries can use these emission reductions towards their Kyoto compliance limitations. Thailand’s GHG emission is expected to double by 2020. (Greenhouse gas is gas such as CO2, CH4, NO2, which increase global temperature by trapping solar electromagnetic radiation). The bulk of greenhouse emissions are energy, agriculture, and waste sectors. Thus, they should become the primary focus of CDM initiatives. The efficient CDM strategy should include:

  • Reducing CO2 in the energy sector;
  • Converting CH4 from waste to energy;
  • Sequestering CO2 through reforestation and afforestation activities.

According to Thailand Environment Monitoring, in order for Thailand to engage and gain benefits from the CDM market, it is necessary to do the following:

  • Create national CDM authority that would implement and control different CDM activities;
  • To create special investment funds and to ensure transparent process of investment for all interested in CDM programs;
  • Establish efficient mechanism that would ensure wide public participation in different CDM programs;
  • Ensure that all investments made in CDM are in compliance with existing country’s environmental impact assessment requirements;

Those procedures are needed to be undertaken in order for the country to catch existing opportunities in the global market and on the worldwide arena. Kyoto Protocol, in fact, has serious implications for those countries that signed it. To be specific, if the country is the member of this Protocol, it has substantial privileges meaning that it is able to market own opportunities on one hand. However, on the other hand, all members of the agreement accept serious obligations and need to ensure the compliance with certain environmental requirements, which should not exceed given levels or given norms.

7. Expanding monitoring policies

Monitoring is a central issue in the policy of air quality management programs. In order for the monitoring to be effective, it is necessary to:

  • Establish extensive network of monitoring centers. Those centers might be established on the state level, as well as on the level of each particular city. Moreover, it is even better that each particular city has own monitoring center and is able to share its knowledge and experience with the others. Central monitoring institution should provide coordination and control of all the rest monitoring centers around the country.
  • It is necessary for monitoring networks to provide frequent and relevant information upon any issues of concern in order to ensure in time quality control and measures. Otherwise, the efficiency of those networks is questionable. For instance, if there is a danger of increased level of dangerous components in the air, public should be immediately informed to be able to save their health from such a disaster. Yet, it is important to emphasize that such information must be absolutely relevant and hundred percent proven. Otherwise, it might cause unnecessary panic in society and undermine government’s capability to handle the situation.
  • Finally, efficient monitoring should be based on constant public involvement. Simply saying, Government needs to ensure that wide audience has an access to monitoring center information and the latter can get a feedback from the people in the form of different noticed alarming signs, different ideas how to improve existing situation, suggestions and comments. If this kind of two-way communication with society is ensured, it will help not only to increase the efficiency of monitoring problems, but also engage public into active participation in environmental problems, air quality management in particular.


Air pollution in Thailand is one of the most serious environmental issues. High levels of pollution endanger public health, decrease efficiency in production, and provoke serious climatic changes on the global level. Therefore, this issue should be resolved immediately. For the Government of Thailand, it is important to undertake the following steps to resolve and improve the situation with the air quality within the country:

  • Adopt relevant legislature to reduce vehicles emission and to oblige companies to implement cleaning technology or technologies that reduce dangerous emission substantially;
  • Encourage production and use of less pollute vehicles, such as four-stroke motorcycles.
  • Effective public transportation management;
  • Reduce the amount of lead in gasoline;
  • Engage public in different environmental programs through vast system of education and information;
  • Ensure effective CDM implementation;
  • Develop broad monitoring sysstem.


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  2. Bangkok Transit system. Official web. http;//www.bts.co.th
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