Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment

Establishing an Air Quality Management System in Thailand

Date posted: 
Mar 19 2010

Timely and accurate data is invaluable to decision makers. Currently, Thailand has one of the best ambient air quality monitoring systems in the world. The ambient air quality is gathered from a nationwide network. Daily reports, as well as monthly or annual, can be readily produced. Reporting is also quick to react on sudden changes on levels of particular matters.

Responsible Party: 
Enforcement Agency
I. Objectives or Impact: 

Air quality deterioration brought about by recent economic growth has been a major problem in Thailand. There is growing awareness from both the government and the public on the need to address rising air pollution levels. The country is quite successful in improving air quality in urban areas, specifically Bangkok. Emissions from traffic are being reduced due to the introduction of unleaded gasoline and compulsory catalytic converters as early as 1995. The establishment of various emission standards also helped alleviate air pollution. However, continuous economic growth still puts pressure on air quality. Emissions in certain parts of the country need to be improved. Newly emerging emission types need to be monitored as well. Updated data need to be available to facilitate modeling of various scenarios. This in turn serves as input for decision and policy making on various issues. To address these concerns, the Pollution Control Department (PCD) of Thailand, with the assistance from the Swedish government, developed an Air Quality Management System which aims to address information needs on air quality.

II. Description of the Good Practice (Outputs): 

The system’s foremost aim is to build a monitoring and information system that deals with air quality. It integrates various inputs from sources according to location, areas, and industries. The endeavor also provided the PCD the necessary skills and know-how to handle advanced analysis of certain pollution compounds. It also prompted the decentralization of monitoring from Bangkok to other provinces.

III. Outcomes or Results: 

Timely and accurate data is invaluable to decision makers. Currently, Thailand has one of the best ambient air quality monitoring systems in the world. The ambient air quality is gathered from a nationwide network. Daily reports, as well as monthly or annual, can be readily produced. Reporting is also quick to react on sudden changes on levels of particular matters. The system also has an established emission database containing from various sources (industries, domestic sources, traffic). The data can also accommodate modeling of specific scenarios. It can analyze the contribution to air quality of specific industries, and can measure potential impacts to pollution of different traffic measures (e.g. re-routing, road construction). An important aspect of the system is to make information accessible as well to various users. As of date, the information can be accessed from Thailand’s Department Operation Center, the Ministerial Operation Center, and the PCD website.

IV. Essential Elements for Success: 

Human Resources and Skills An intensive training was provided to the PCD staff of the Monitoring Subdivision and the Air Quality Subdivision. The practical training was conducted by the assisting Swedish experts. Over-all, the training on the system lasted for 50 weeks. One of the difficulties encountered by the PCD staff is the heavy workload. This stems from the presence of other urgent tasks of the staff, and the ever-increasing environmental concerns in Thailand. However, a thorough training is required since manning the system demands specialized skills from a dedicated staff. Material and Resources The system is very dependent on the availability of an updated computer hardware system. For this endeavor, the PCD financed the enhancement of its hardware and system. Regional workstations were established to enable decentralization of some of the functions. Given the complexity of the system, the PCD has to commit on conducting regular service and maintenance of the hardware. Investment on future upgrades is also required. The monitoring stations of the PCD also require regular service checks and maintenance to ensure reliable and high quality data. Institutional Support One of the difficulties encountered by this endeavor is the decentralization of tasks from the central to the regional offices. The foremost reason for the difficulty is the lack of resources in the regional offices and the competing tasks that confronts the local staff. For decentralization to be successful, resources should be allocated for the capacity-building of local and regional staff. In the case of Thailand, the intended funds for establishing the decentralized offices were reduced due to the Asian financial crisis.

V. Further Information: 

Contact Person/Office: Pollution Control Department (PCD), Thailand. 92 Soi Phahon Yothin, Phahon Yothin Road, Sam Sen Nai, Phayathai District, Bangkok 10400, Thailand.

Simplified and Effective Air Monitoring Programs in the Philippines

Date posted: 
Nov 13 2008

The practice aims to provide cost-effective air monitoring program, especially in the scenario of budget and resource constraint.

Responsible Party: 
Enforcement Agency
I. Objectives or Impact: 

The practice aims to provide cost-effective air monitoring program, especially in the scenario of budget and resource constraint.

Sector/subsector:

Air pollution monitoring

II. Description of the Good Practice (Outputs): 

Ambient air quality standards have averaging times of ranging, from one hour for carbon monoxide and ozone to one year for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. However, commercial manufacturers and distributors of air pollution monitoring equipment aim to sell expensive real-time monitoring equipment, linked to the Internet where people could see the trends of air quality. While the instantaneous presentations of the results could mesmerize the public and decision-makers unfamiliar with technical issues on air quality monitoring, the prohibitive cost of such system (US$300,000 to 700,000 per monitoring site) makes the usefulness of the monitoring data of little value to actual policy making. Also, the monitoring stations are limited in number and often sparsely located. The operating and maintenance cost of the monitoring stations is very expensive, ranging from $20,000 to 50,000 annually. Real time air quality monitors then often serve as promotional display, often located in the middle of parks and places of thick vegetation, negating its main and actual purpose.

However, with budget constraints, far more cost-effective options are available. In the last 20 years, passive samplers have been developed and used satisfactorily. Compared with real time monitors, passive samplers are cheap, costing from $5 to 10 per sample. Instead of one sample for one urban area, the air quality could be monitored at a hundred sites at a fraction of the annual and operating cost of an open path sampler. One drawback of passive samplers though is the frequent need to take, remove, and change the sampler depending on the averaging time of the pollutant.

Passive samplers were shown to be very effective. The World Bank and Asian Development Bank used the passive sampler in monitoring the sulfur dioxide concentration in its RAINS-ASIA program. The monitoring results were used to calibrate a complex acid rain regional model and development regional strategies. In the past, the cost of passive samplers and analysis was much higher, by as much as a factor of three as the equipment for analyzing the samples were in the early stages of development and very few laboratories in the world have the capability. The samplers were sent to Europe for analysis. Today the equipment for analysis could be purchased at around $50,000.

III. Outcomes or Results: 

The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank used the passive samplers effectively in its acid rain studies in Asia. The monitoring results were used to calibrate the RAINS-ASIA model and develop mitigation measures.

IV. Essential Elements for Success: 

Policy Framework: Enabling Policy, Regulation, Inter-agency/Multiparty Agreements

There is a need for the development of a strong and well-defined air pollution monitoring policy framework in order for the technical personnel to resist the strong pressure from expensive air pollution monitoring equipment salesmen. The monitoring stations locations have to be defined in terms of area, population density and economic activity. It should be realized that one or two sampling stations do not give any meaningful picture of the air pollution trend of the city.

Human Resources and Skills

In the World Bank and Asian Development Bank study, the nearby residents did the collection and replacement of the passive samplers.  They were given one hour training on the placement, removal and storage of the samplers. Laboratory equipment for analysis would be advantageous if there are more than a hundred samples to analyze every month. A skilled chemist is required to run the equipment.

Material and Resources

Supply of passive samplers and analytical equipment is needed. Otherwise the sampler could be mailed to the nearest laboratory with the proper equipment and analyst as done in the World Bank –Asian Development Bank study.

Institutional Support

Support from scientific community and NGO is needed in order for the environmental management agency to withstand the pressure from salesmen to buy expensive monitoring equipment.

V. Further Information: 

References and Publications:

World Bank publications on Acid Rain

Monitoring Persistent Organic Pollutants in the Philippines

Date posted: 
Nov 13 2008

A number of persistent organic chemicals are used in industries. However, laboratories in developing countries normally do not have the facilities to analyze the pollutants created by these organic chemicals.

Responsible Party: 
Enforcement Agency
I. Objectives or Impact: 

A number of persistent organic chemicals are used in industries. However, laboratories in developing countries normally do not have the facilities to analyze the pollutants created by these organic chemicals.

Sector/subsector:

Monitoring of use of organic chemicals and enforcing compliance on rules governing created pollutants.

II. Description of the Good Practice (Outputs): 

The number of persistent organic chemicals used in modern industries is quite numerous and often the concentration in the environment of concern is very low that is unrealistic for laboratories in most developing countries to be equipped with the appropriate laboratory facilities. The usage of those persistent organic chemicals and the generated pollutants could very small. However, those substances can accumulate in the environment and may reach critical levels. Once the chemicals have accumulated, it may take decades before the chemicals are neutralized, especially if the chemicals affect groundwater.

One of such chemical is Trichloroethylene, or TCE. TCE is widely used in industries, ranging from dry cleaners, machine shops, electronic and semi-conductors. It is even used by households as a degreasing and cleaning chemical. TCE is a potential carcinogenic substance and in most countries. Its use has been prohibited since the mid 1990s. TCE is a volatile substance but it is scrubbed from the atmosphere by rain and carried underground, often contaminating ground water resources.

TCE is just an example of an industrial chemical, whose impacts on the environment is persistent and potentially damaging even at parts per billion or parts per trillion range. Most countries have a reporting system or control on the entry of those chemicals on their border. However, once inside their territory the monitoring is patchy, since sophisticated laboratory required for monitoring is most often than not absent.

In this particular case, the presence of TCE in the ground water was voluntarily reported by a multi-national giant after it carried out clean up of its old factory site. The company stopped using TCE in 1992 in line with its parent company environmental policy and 2006 as part of its clean up procedures; it spent hundreds of thousand of dollars to sample and analyze the soil and groundwater. Due to the wide uses of TCE and the number of potential users it was difficult to pinpoint the source. However, the concentration was up to a hundred times higher than the recommended TCE levels on drinking water by the World Health Organization.

Based on this incident, the procedures for importation of some 30 chemicals were revised. Importers of chemicals in the “watch list” were required to submit the list of users and the quantity used prior to authorization to import. The users were required to report the concentration of those chemicals in the groundwater, surface and soil as part of their environmental permit.

III. Outcomes or Results: 

The cost of analyzing one sample of a typical chemical in the “watch list” is $50 and measuring the downstream and upstream surface and ground water quality can reach $200 per year. The cost of analysis for soil sample is higher, at $80. The total cost for a user per chemical type in the “watch list” is $280 per year. Considering that there are more than 10,000 users, the annual cost is $2,800,000. Interestingly, these associated costs are much higher than the budget of laboratory agencies of a typical environment agency.

IV. Essential Elements for Success: 

Policy Framework: Enabling Policy, Regulation, Inter-agency/Multiparty Agreements

Implementation of the practice called for revision of the administrative order controlling the importation of the chemicals in the “watch list”. The environmental management agency also encourages the private sector to open laboratory facilities to analyze the various chemicals in the “watch list” to lower the cost. It is estimated that more than 40 percent of the present cost is the special handling and shipping requirements of the samples for analysis in either Singapore, Tokyo or West coast USA.

Human Resources and Skills

The revision was integrated into the existing workload of the staff evaluating and authorizing the importation of the chemicals in the “watch list”

Material and Resources

The monitoring of the users, the quantity used and the importers were encoded in the environmental management database to facilitate compliance monitoring.

Institutional Support

Implementation of the procedure called for strong cooperation between the environmental management and customs, which is responsible for the controlling entry of the chemicals in the watch list. It also called for strong cooperation within the agency of the water quality division and the THW and the controlled chemical division.

V. Further Information: 

References and Publications:

Original DAO for controlled chemical importation
Revised DAO for controlled chemical importation

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