The history of why there is a large abandoned landfill site in Thap Thai, Hua Hin

An image from May 7 showing the fire at the landfill site. The fire has now been extinguished.

A landfill in Hua Hin, inactive for several years, became the centre of attention once again following the significant fire that broke out last week. The incident has reignited concerns over waste management practices and policies in the region.

Located in the Thap Tai subdistrict, the landfill site had been in operation since 1994, serving as the primary disposal site for Hua Hin’s municipal waste. For nearly two decades, it functioned continuously until it evolved into a large mountain of waste.

The situation took a turn in March 2016 when local residents, plagued by foul odors and contaminated water sources, forcefully halted the dumping of waste at the site.

Their protests were heeded by the Thap Tai Sub-district Council, which decided against allowing the Hua Hin Municipality to continue its operations there.

In response to the closure, the municipality adapted by redirecting its waste to the Thanarat Military Camp Environmental Center in Pran Buri, situated about 40 kilometers away, which increased the municipality’s operational costs.

Efforts to rehabilitate the Thap Tai landfill were initiated by the Office of Environmental Policy and Planning (OEPP), which allocated 33 million baht for the transformation of the landfill into a controlled waste disposal site. The plan was to reclassify the accumulated waste from Zone A to Zone D and bury it in accordance with scientific principles.

However, the proposal met resistance from local representatives, who argued that it failed to address the core issues of remaining waste and water contamination. They suggested that the funds would be better spent improving the area’s wastewater treatment facilities. Due to these disagreements, the project stalled, and the landfill remained abandoned.

On May 11, 2024, a large fire exacerbated by hot weather conditions ignited at the old landfill, affecting zones A and B, where trash had accumulated over the past decade. The blaze covered over 20 rai and sent vast plumes of smoke into the surrounding areas, adversely impacting local communities.

Governor of Prachuap Khiri Khan, Mr. Somkid Chanthamaruk, alongside local officials and agencies, managed to fully extinguish the fire after a week of efforts. Approximately six backhoes were deployed to create pathways through the smoldering debris, and 15 water trucks, manned by 70 personnel, were used to dampen the area continually. Fortunately, recent rainfall aided in controlling the fire swiftly, preventing any injuries.

Governor Chanthamaruk expressed his gratitude toward the 15 government agencies, local administrative organizations, and numerous officials who collaborated diligently from the outset to mitigate the disaster. He also acknowledged the local and provincial health officials and Hua Hin Hospital for providing health advice to residents affected by the smoke.

While the immediate crisis has been averted, continuous monitoring will be conducted over the next few days to prevent any flare-ups. This incident serves as a reminder of the challenges Hua Hin faces regarding waste management and the need for sustainable solutions to prevent future environmental crises.