Dr Supat Wangwongwatana
In 2008, the Clean Air Asia Partnership established the Kong Ha Award for Excellence in Air Quality Management to honor the memory of the late Kong Ha, who served as the chairperson of the Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (Clean Air Asia) from December 2004 to April 2007. The award serves as a tribute to people who have a responsibility for the formulation of air quality management-related policies and their day-to-day implementation in Asia
Dr Supat Wangwongwatana, a scientist and practitioner who has worked tirelessly for the past 26 years to improve air quality in Thailand and throughout Asia, is the recipient of this year’s prestigious Kong Ha Award for Excellence in Air Quality Management.
Presenting the award at Clean Air Asia’s 9th Better Air Quality Conference and the 17th International Union of Air Pollution Prevention and Environmental Protection Associations’ World Clean Air Congress in Busan, South Korea, on September 1, Clean Air Asia Executive Director Bjarne Pedersen said Dr Wangwongwatana was a worthy award honoree, embodying the true spirit of the award with his deep commitment, knowledge, enthusiasm and strong sense of partnership in pursuit of solutions to one of the most pressing issues of our time.
“Dr Wangwongwatana has demonstrated technical expertise in the field of the highest standard. When we look at his achievements, we see multi-stakeholder participation and a strong commitment to transforming his scientific work into policies that champion our cause for cleaner air for everyone,” Mr Pedersen said.
Dr Wangwongwatana’s many contributions include retrofitting the Mae Moh lignite-fired thermal power plant in Thailand’s Lampang province to significantly reduce sulfur dioxide emissions that were a large health burden for people within the vicinity of the plant.
“People said it was an impossible mission,” he said. “It took us eight years to achieve our goal. And from this, I want to deliver my message to all of you that when people question your goals for cleaner air, it can be done.”
In the 1990s, Dr Wangwongwatana also developed policies to reduce air pollution in Bangkok, then one of the region’s most polluted cities. His work subsequently influenced the adoption of cleaner fuel and vehicle standards – two of the factors that are intrinsically linked to the cleaner air Bangkok today enjoys.
During Dr Wangwongwatana’s illustrious career, he has occupied top positions with Thailand’s Office of National Environment Board, the Pollution Control Department, and the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Quality Policy and Planning. He has also long been involved in climate change mitigation, representing Thailand in negotiations on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in early 1990, and as a member of the Scientific Advisory Panel of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition since 2013.
Dr Wangwongwatana has also been involved in a range of international initiatives, networks, programs and conventions. He was Chair of the Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (now Clean Air Asia) and Chair of the Asian Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Network, and is currently Co-Chair of the Asian Co-benefits Partnership.
Anamita Roychowdhury, Executive Director of Research and Advocacy at the Center for Science and Environment, said Dr Wangwongwatana had been able to bring together policy and science, enabling the more effective implementation of policies.
“What I find most appealing is his sensitivity and deep understanding of the importance of clean air action,” Ms Roychowdhury said. “His commitment to early action to catch up and stay ahead of the pollution curve resonates well with the spirit of the Kong Ka award. It is a powerful message to inspire us all.”
Dr Wangwongwatana said the fight for clean air in Asia’s cities was far from over.
“We still have lots of work to do. Let’s join hands and work together.”