Thursday, February 20, 2020

Govt urged to increase budget to tackle severe air pollution, drought

Jan 13. 2020
Asst Prof Dr Anusorn Tamajai
Asst Prof Dr Anusorn Tamajai
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By The Nation

The Economic and Business Research Centre of Rangsit University’s Institute of Economics urged the government to raise the budget and accelerate allocation to resolve the impact of PM2.5 dust particles and the drought.

The director of the centre, Asst Prof Dr Anusorn Tamajai, said on Sunday (January 12) that Bangkok – including its surrounding areas – is currently ranked among the cities with the highest air pollution in the world. Therefore, the government should allocate more money to mitigate the impact as soon as possible.

“The Barcelona Institute for Global Health’s latest research stated that aside from causing respiratory, lung and heart diseases, air pollution affects the eyes and can also lead to mental diseases, osteoporosis, and foetal development,” he said.

“The government should issue the clean air act and establish a fund for the environment and quality of life to launch measures to reduce the impact on citizens, especially people with low incomes and those who are vulnerable to air pollution.”

Anusorn said the latest study by the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management stated that the severity of air pollution also leads to a rise in crime rates, especially physical assaults, when the level of PM2.5 dust particles increase by 10 microgrammes per cubic metre.

“Physical assaults increase by around 1.4 per cent in areas with air pollution. If the ozone toxicity increases by 0.01 parts per million, these crimes will increase by 0.97 per cent. Assaults which are not overly violent will also increase by 1.15 per cent,” Anusorn said.

“This case requires further research – whether these findings in the US, reported by BBC, exist in Thailand.”

He said a team of economists, environmental scientists and statisticians from Colorado State University found that reducing PM2.5 pollution by 10 per cent per day will save money of up to $1.1 million (Bt33 million) per year for handling criminal cases.

“Although this study cannot clearly explain how an increase in air pollution can affect people’s emotions and behaviour, it also requires further research to understand the mechanisms, especially in the case of Thai society,” he said.

“However, raising the budget for air pollution management is needed, because it will help to reduce expense on health services and crime management.”

Anusorn also said the impact of the drought on the economy, agriculture and industrial sectors in the Eastern Economic Corridor will lead to negative gross domestic product growth in the second quarter when compared to the first.

“The growth of GDP in the second quarter will be the same as the previous year. Last year, GDP expanded only 2.3 per cent, so this year it may expand lower than 2 per cent if the authorities do not prepare to tackle the impact from the drought,” he warned.

“This impact will cause off-season rice production to drop 50-60 per cent to 3.5 million tonnes, resulting in higher prices, and some farmers will lack income during summer. 

“Moreover, the price of food, pork, palm oil, drinking water, vegetables and fruit will also rise. Therefore, the government should increase the budget and accelerate disbursement for investment in water management to cope with the effects of the drought,” Anusorn advised.

He added that if the disbursement is delayed, the government should use quasi-fiscal measures through government banks in the form of low-interest loans and compensation.

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