The secretary-general of the National Health Commission (NHC) said the cabinet approved guidelines for the prevention and mitigation of the health impacts of biomass power plants in accordance with the resolution of the 5th National Health Assembly. The cabinet assigned relevant organizations to implement the guidelines right away including the changes of conditions for licenses and city planning in order to solve environmental problems and develop the good health of communities.
Amphon Jindawatthana, secretary-general of the National Health Commission, said that on October 1, 2013, the cabinet approved the resolution of the 5th National Health Assembly on “the prevention and mitigation of the health impacts of biomass power plants” and the plan relating to the resolution that Deputy Prime Minister Pongthep Thepkanchana proposed in his capacity as the chairman of the National Health Commission. The cabinet assigned relevant organizations to implement them.
The matter resulted from the proposal that a network of people affected by power plants in Surin province sent to the organization committee of the National Health Assembly. After the issue was included in the agenda of the assembly, an academic committee was formed to work out relevant policies. Dr Narongsak Aungkasuvapala chairs the committee and its members are representatives of government agencies, academia and the civil sector. The policies were then presented in public consultations nationwide and brought to the National Health Assembly in late 2012 where they became consensus. Therefore, the resolution of the National Health Assembly resulted from the collaboration of all parties in the society that intend to develop good health in communities. The resolution is also in accordance with the government’s policy to develop good environment and control pollution for the public interest.
Measures to prevent and mitigate the impacts in accordance with the resolution of the National Health Assembly fall into four areas. Energy development plans and biomass energy master plans will be developed at the provincial level. They will consist of the categorization of power plants in compliance with laws governing factories, of city planning and of legal measures in accordance with the announcements of the Energy Regulatory Commission. There will be measures to prevent, address and monitor the environmental impacts of the parties that are exempted from the requirement to present environmental impact assessment reports under a law to improve the environment in relation to electricity generation from biomass (solid fuel). Biomass power plants will be defined as hazardous businesses under the Public Health Act B.E. 2535 and people’s education will be promoted through the processes of community health impact assessment (CHIA).
The cabinet also reached two additional resolutions. It ordered the Ministry of Energy to quickly reduce or end the use of coal as fuel at biomass power plants. Regarding the definition of biomass power plants as hazardous businesses, the cabinet ordered the Ministry of Energy and the Office of the Energy Regulatory Commission to improve the Code of Practice to better control pollution. The cabinet also assigned the Department of Health to study the impacts of power plants to support the declaration of biomass power plants to be hazardous businesses under the Public Health Act B.E. 2535.
The National Health Commission Office will coordinate the implementation of the cabinet resolutions with relevant governmental organizations and concerned parties. Obviously the National Health Assembly functions as a truly participatory policy-making process.
Source: National Health Commission Office
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