While our great leaders spent days in Copenhagen not agreeing a way forward to combat climate change I had the unfortunate experience of spending a few days in Pattaya on the Gulf of Thailand. For the four days I spent there a thick haze engulfed the coastline. My host was apologetic, but noted that this was a common occurance these days. My planned stay of seven days was cut to four as I decided to return to the relatively clean atmosphere of Bangkok……The memories I have of Pattaya are of a polluted atmosphere which seemed to compliment the polluted environment of the ‘in your face’ massage parlours and sex bars.
On returning to Bangkok, I picked up a copy of the International Herald Tribune and lo and behold there was an article describing the fight of Thai villagers to clean up the emissions from the Map Ta Phut industrial zone which lies 15 miles south east of Pattaya.
A study released in 2007 found that people living near Map Ta Phut had a 65% higher levels of genetic damage to blood cells than people living in rural areas. Such cell damage, which is a possible precursor to cancer, was 120% higher for refinery workers than in residents of rural communities. In September 2009 Thailand’s pollution control department reported that it found nine types of carcinogenic compounds in the air around Map Ta Phut.
Although the Thai courts declared a “pollution control zone” around Map Ta Phut in March 2009 following a lawsuit brought by villages, enforcement seems impossible due to the Thai government’s reluctance to bring in the necessary laws to make it possible as well as pressure from the companies involved, including Bayer, the German pharmaceutical giant, Aditya Birla Chemicals , an Indian conglomerate, and BlueScope Steel of Australia.
If you are thinking of travelling to Pattaya, then think again. This is not what you will see or read in the travel brochures.