The Bangkok Metropolitan Council (BMC) has cut the budget allocated for the so-called Dust Free Project. Some 219 million baht was set aside to install air conditioning in 429 schools for kindergarten students.
On 6 September, the BMC held a conference to discuss a 2024 annual budget of over 90 billion baht. Of this total, 219 million baht which was designated to be spent on the so-called Dust Free project in 1,743 classes at 429 schools was unanimously cut by the council. Some members raised concerns that the budget was not being properly spent.
The purpose of the project is to install air conditioning and ventilating fans in classrooms for 3 to 6-year-olds to protect them from PM 2.5.
Churachit Phongsingwitthaya, a member of the council for Lat Krabang District, asserted that project costs exceeded those of Dust Free projects in other provinces which spent only 10 thousand baht. In Lampang Province, for example, they installed air purifiers and organised tree-planting activities.
He argued that there is no need to spend such a large budget, if the BMC chooses air purifiers, which would cost only 9 million baht, instead of air conditioning. Churachit also questioned the necessity of air conditioning, particularly in a district like Pom Prap Sattru Phai, which has only a few classrooms.
Worries were also expressed that the project would turn electric bills into a financial burden, and it was suggested that consideration be given to installing solar-cell panels.
Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt asserted that young children need special care as their brains are rapidly developing and added that neglecting them will cost the country valuable human resources. He reiterated that every child should be entitled to study in quality classroom settings, regardless of their financial status.
Deputy Governor Sanon Wangsrangboon argued that it would be safer to invest in air-conditioned classrooms for the sake of children’s development.
The Active reported that Sanon later expressed regret on his Facebook page, saying he felt sorry that he could not create safer classrooms for children in Bangkok. He also stated that there is a long way to go before education is a universal welfare.