The Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) inaugurated the Marine Plastic Abatement Laboratory, on the 4th of December 2020, in the presence of a delegation from the Embassy of Japan in Thailand, consisting of HE Hiroshi Kawamura (Deputy Chief of Mission and Minister), Mr. Tory Terai (First Sectretay and Alternate Premanent Representative of Japan to ESCAP), and Mr. Goto Fumihiko (Counsellor and Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to ESCAP). Also present was the President of the Thailand Environment Institute, and Secretary General of the Thailand Business Council for Sustainable Development, Dr. Wijarn Simachaya, and many other guests and students.
The Government of Japan provides generous financial support to AIT for its Marine Plastic Abatement Masters Programme (MPA). Earlier in the day, the MPA International Advirory Panel met. The members received an update on the course curriculum development by Prof. Thammarat Koottatep, and discussed various issues, including planned activities in 2021.
UNESCO Bangkok’s Programme Specialist for Natural Sciences, Dr. Benno Böer, invited AIT and the Advisory Panel members to co-organize a joint field excursion in 2021, visiting UNESCO sites in the coastal zones in Thailand, with a view to educate young people on marine ecosystem issues, including ecosystem health, conservation, and pollution-management. He also suggested for the marine plastic abatement students to write original blog contributions about their work and post them onto the open-sience online platform Quest4Action. UNESCO supports AIT as a member of the International Advisory Panel of the Marine Plastic Abatement Master Programme. AIT is a founding member of UNESCO’s Plastic Initiative. Both activities are based on an MoU that has been signed between the two bodies in June 2020, by the Director of the UNESCO Regional Education Bureau in Asia Pacific, in Bangkok, Mr. Shigeru Aoyagi, and the President of the Asian Institute of Technology, Prof. Eden Woon.
Plastic pollution has become one of the major global environmental concerns. Science and education are absolutely essential elements to overcome this acute international problem. It needs a concerted action leading to more responsible production and consumption as stipulated in the SDG 12, better legislation, national action plans, avoiding the release of plastics into the open environment, cleaning up the macro-, micro-, and nano-plastics that have already accumulated in the natural ecosystems, enhancing plastic recycling capacities, produce more degradable and recyclable plastic types, avoid the utilization of plastic where it makes no sense, and enhance scientific research into ecosystem health, coupled with science-based environmental education, including in schools and universities.
The AIT’s Marine Plastic Abatement Masters Programme is a pioneering activity, of great international relevance. It will be highly important to widen the geographical scope of the programme to Asia and the pacific and far beyond, so all compartment of the world can benefit from the professional teaching and scientific research carried out by the AIT’s professors and master students.
Dr. Benno Böer
Benno is the Programme Specialist for Natural Sciences at the UNESCO Bangkok Office.