The news came as Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Permanent Secretary Wijarn Simachaya delivered his welcoming address to forum attendees at the Phuket Graceland Resort & Spa in Patong.
Also present were Phuket Vice Governor Supoj Rotreuang Na Nongkhai and Surachai Ajalaboon, Deputy Director-General of the Department of Environment Quality Promotion (DEQP), which is hosting the forum.
Thailand, as the host country for the forum, chose the theme for this year’s AYEF conference as “Clean up Our Sea, Change Our Future”.
The event is officially being held from Sept 8-13.
“The purpose of this forum is to build youth awareness about environment issues in Southeast Asia, especially the problem of sea trash,” Mr Wijarn said.
“Youth representatives from Asean as well as China, South Korea and Japan, can share their ideas about prevention and solution of environmental problems, leading to the sustainable environmental management,” he added.
Mr Wijarn pointed out that last July the Asean Working Group on Environmental Education (AWGEE) appointed Thailand to be the host of the 2019 forum. The forum is normally held every two years. The first and second forums were held in Brunei, the third and fourth were held in Singapore.
“We would like to emphasise the problem of waste ending up in the sea, which is a huge problem right now. Some countries in Asean are in the top 20 most sea-trash-causing countries. As 80% of trash on land floats along rivers and out to sea, we have to seriously cooperate with everyone to fix this problem,” Mr Wijarn said.
According to a report in 2017 by global conservation organisation Ocean Conservancy, just five Asian countries – China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand – dump more than half of the 8 million tons of plastic waste that end up in oceans every year. (See report here.)
“Youth is an important group who can set the future direction for Asean development. It is important to give space where they can share creative ideas and knowledge about environmental management. They will love nature and become promoters for natural saving and recovering in the future,” Mr Wijarn said.
DEQP Deputy Director-General Mr Surachai said 40 Thai representatives, along with 60 youth representatives from other Asean countries and China, South Korea and Japan have joined the forum.
Also present are 150 representatives from Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and a variety international organisations, he added.
Attendees will discuss key problems and waste management strategies, along with presentations made by representatives from each of the participating countries.
Among the expert speakers to make presentations during the forum will be Asst Prof Parinya Thewanarumitkul from Thammasart University, founder of the “paddling boats for Chao Phraya, collecting trash from Pak Nampo to the Thai Gulf”, will deliver a talk titled “Trash from the River to the Sea”.
“The youth representatives will also have chance to create the tools necessary to connect with the public in order to promote, educate and ask for cooperation from public,” Mr Surachai said.
“There will be a field trip to see the environmental management in Phuket Town, which was awarded (by the DEQP) the best environmental management city in 2016,” he added.
“Phuket City has a centralised waste management model that encourages every sector to have a waste management and reduction,” Me Surachai explained.
“Under the system, schools under the municipality, households and companies are encouraged to separate recyclable trash,” he added.
During the forum, there will also be an exhibition by relevant agencies about the problems of and the management of sea trash in Thailand and the Asean region,” he said.