Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. Earth Science News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Flood threat as plastic bags clog Bangkok's bowels
Bangkok (AFP) Sept 6, 2016

A line of prisoners emerges from Bangkok's sewers covered in a thick film of slime and hauling buckets of sludge -- frontline troops in the battle against a rising tide of plastic waste.

Located just 50 centimetres above sea level and criss-crossed with canals, Thailand's throbbing capital has long had to fight off floods and an encroaching sea.

But the city's insatiable appetite for plastic bags, combined with a poor track record of recycling, is severely hampering those efforts, especially during the monsoon months.

Plastic has become a major scourge for the city's network of pumping stations, clogging vital machinery during the seasonal downpours and regularly turning major thoroughfares into muddy rivers.

Every day city workers descend into Bangkok's bowels to try and clear some of the debris, supported by convicts who earn time off their jail sentences by volunteering for the task.

On a side street some thirty prisoners dressed in waders and matching blue t-shirts begin their work.

They lift a large concrete slab leading to the a drainage channel below, scattering an army of cockroaches.

Sliding into the filthy water, the group uses metal buckets to scrape away at the slime-covered debris blocking the drainage pipes.

"The work is not too difficult," said one prisoner who puts in six days a week on volunteer duty. "And it allows me to go home more quickly."

Each day the prisoners work is a day lifted from their sentence. Thailand's corrections authorities asked AFP not to identify any prisoners in return for access to their work programme.

- Whither sufficiency? -

Throughout his long reign, Thailand's ailing but revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 88, preached a concept he dubbed the "sufficiency economy" -- a philosophy that espoused sustainability, environmentalism and making do with what one has.

But there are times when Bangkok -- home a huge chunk of the country's moneyed elite and middle classes -- seems like it has gone in the opposite direction.

All across the sprawling city of some 12 million inhabitants vast shopping malls and condo blocks with swimming pools suck up huge amounts of electricity while an ever growing number of SUVs hog the streets.

Thailand is widely considered to be one of the world's largest consumers of plastic bags.

The government's own figures suggest the average Thai uses eight plastic bags a day -- in contrast, the average person in France uses around 80 a year.

The nation has a thriving street food culture with millions eating or buying their meals on the pavement each day. There once was a time when most of these dishes would be served wrapped in biodegradable banana leaves. But no longer.

It is a shift familiar across the region, with devastating results for the world's oceans.

In a recent report, an American conservation group Ocean Conservancy estimated that just five countries -- China, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand -- were responsible for as much as 60 percent of plastic waste dumped into the ocean.

Narong Ruengsri, head of Bangkok city authority's drainage department, said removing so much plastic from the canals and drainage system is a constant battle.

"Every day we go fish out around 2,000 tons of waste from the drainage channels," he told AFP.

- 'Live on a hill ' -

Unless there is a major change in consumer habits, or a concerted government campaign to reduce bag use, the waste will continue to pile up.

Official figures show the 11,500 tonnes of garbage Bangkok produces each day -- at least one tonne of which is plastic -- is growing by 10 percent a year.

Officially only 16 percent is recycled -- although non-government artisan recyclers would boost that figure.

Wijarn Simachaya, director of pollution control at the Ministry of Environment, conceded Thais needed to change their habits.

"We are one of the worst performers in the world in terms of marine debris." he said.

But local environmental activist Srisuwan Janya said the government needed to take a stronger lead.

"In Thailand companies have done more in this area than the state has," he said.

Gaffes by Bangkok's governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra have not helped perceptions that Thai officials could do more.

Last year, after a particularly bad bout of monsoon flooding, he sparked uproar by suggesting residents who wanted to avoid inundations should "live on a hill".

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
Water News - Science, Technology and Politics

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
Millions at risk from rising water pollution: UN
Paris (AFP) Aug 30, 2016
Increasingly polluted rivers in Africa, Asia and Latin America pose a disease risk to more than 300 million people and threaten fisheries and farming in many countries, a UN report warned Tuesday. Already, some 3.4 million people die every year from water-borne ailments such as cholera, typhoid, some types of hepatitis and diarrhoeal diseases, said the United Nations Environment Programme. ... read more

Chinese glass bridge, world's longest, closes

Europe 'close to limits' on refugee influx: Tusk

Merkel vows to 'win back trust' after poll loss blamed on migrant crisis

Germany's anti-migrant populists beat Merkel's party in local vote

Berlin's IFA fair dons virtual reality headsets

Shrinking the inside of an explosion

New optical material offers unprecedented control of light and thermal radiation

'Materials that compute' advances as Pitt engineers demonstrate pattern recognition

Warming oceans are 'sick,' global scientists warn

Obama highlights environment on Pacific atoll

Pacific tuna meet fails to agree on cutbacks

Flood threat as plastic bags clog Bangkok's bowels

Technique could assess historic changes to Antarctic sea ice and glaciers

A mammoth undertaking

By mid-century, more Antarctic snowfall may help offset sea-level rise

Giant cruise ship heads to Arctic on pioneering journey

Iran's pistachio farms are dying of thirst

Early-onset spring models may indicate 'nightmare' for ag

Crop domestication is a balancing act

ChemChina rolls over $43 bn Syngenta offer

17 unaccounted for in typhoon-hit northern Japan

Floods kill 60, displace 44,000 in N.Korea: UN

Hurricane Newton barrels toward Mexico resort

Romeo the miracle dog survives Italy quake

COP22 host Morocco's mosques are going green

Mali defence minister fired after jihadists seize town: officials

Corruption 'epidemic' in Tunisia: anti-graft chief

S.Sudan court martials 60 soldiers

Study: Math-capable parents yield math-capable kids

Smarter brains are blood-thirsty brains

UT study cracks coldest case: How the most famous human ancestor died

Scientists think human ancestor Lucy fell from a tree

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement