EARTH Thailand

Groups march against EIA, projects in South

The Nation 11 March 2017 | Pratch Rujivanarom

A 101-KILOMETRE march was launched yesterday to highlight the flaws of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and protest against the planned Songkhla-Satun Landbridge project and the proposed Pak Bara seaport.

Activists from Khao Kuha Communal Rights Protection Association, The People’s Network on Mineral, and other organisations began the march, named “Walk with Love from Mountain to the Sea”, to raise public awareness of problems with the EIA and planned developments. 

They will trek from Khao Kuha in Songkhla’s Rattaphum district to the planned site of Pak Bara Seaport in Satun’s La-ngu district to protest at the proposed Songkhla-Satun Landbridge project.

Eakachai Isaratha, Khao Kuha Communal Rights Protection Association secretary-general, said the groups wanted to emphasise faults in the current process, as they had a bad experience with an “improper” EIA for the Khao Kuha quarry.

“Misleading EIA and improper public participation will only lead to problems and conflicts, so our association and the alliance groups started this long march to protest against these bad practices and campaign for reform,” Eakachai said.

“Moreover, we also ask for the Songkhla-Satun Landbridge project and subsequent projects to be discarded because these projects will damage the natural resources of the country, destroy people’s livelihoods and increase inequality in society.”

The groups intend to walk for seven days to the first public hearing forum of the Pak Bara Seaport project, which will be held in La-ngu district next Thursday.

Eakachai said people living near Khao Kuha quarry had bad memories about the improper EIA and public participation. They did not know about the EIA and public participation until the report passed consideration and the project got the green light to operate.

“We learned from our experience that the current EIA and public participation cannot prevent negative impacts from the project and that the entire process is just a stamp for the project to begin,” he said.

“This is why we want to emphasise the need for an EIA and public participation to be reformed before the public hearing for Pak Bara seaport starts, which is the first step toward the operation to turn the Southern Region into the industrial zone without people’s consent.”

He said Pak Bara seaport was only a part of a much larger plan to industrialise the Southern Region as the Landbridge project would involve Pak Bara and Songkhla deep-water seaport, a railroad link, Thepa coal-fired power plant, and an industrial zone.

The groups’ statement also said these projects would require a large amount of natural resources to support industry and infrastructure development. At least three mountains would be demolished for construction material.

“We urge the government to comply with the framework of United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and follow the late King’s footsteps on a sufficiency economy,” Eakachai said.