EARTH Thailand

Effectiveness of measures up to players: Anand

The Nation 14 January 2010 | Pongphon Sarnsamak

The governmentappointed panel tasked with resolving Map Ta Phut's environmental problems yesterday urged the public and private sectors and local communities to be sincere and serious in implementing the four measures designed to comply with Article 67 (2) of the Constitution.

Panel chairman and former prime minister Anand Panyarachun told a press conference at Ban Phitsanulok: "To succeed in resolving Map Ta Phut's environmental problems, the government and the political system must seriously implement these measures.

"We only design the house. The man who will build the house is the government. Officials must work hard and be honest."

He said basic problems in the Map Ta Phut area had not been resolved in recent years because the government had not been serious about formulating or implementing measures under the Constitution to address them. At times, there were many political obstacles and limitations to official regulations, and this fostered a sense of distrust among local residents against the industrial sector and the authorities.

The problems in Map Ta Phut have not been the fault of the private sector, because it has followed existing government regulations.

"We must create a novel culture, one in which industry can exist harmoniously with people and the environment," Anand said.

Anand's call came after his fourparty panel to resolve Map Ta Phut's problems completed its mission of formulating four measures under Article 67 (2) of the Constitution.

These measures are expected to overcome difficulties and allow the private sector to operate projects in the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate.

Earlier, the Supreme Administrative Court suspended 64 projects on the grounds they caused serious harm to the environment, health and local communities.

The four measures are environmentalimpact assessments (EIAs), healthimpact assessments (HIAs), public hearings into potentially harmful projects or activities and an independent environmental and health body.

"In theory, yes, we have completed the measures, but in practice it depends on the way they [the government, the private sector and communities] implement our plan," he said.

However, the establishment of the independent environmental and health body will take about 15 months, so to alleviate the hardship for the business sector, the Cabinet on Tuesday set up a panel to establish an independent adhoc committee to serve in the interim.

This selection panel will consist of 18 members who are activists or from relevant public agencies and nongovernmental organisations.

The resulting independent adhoc environmental and health committee will consist of 13 members appointed to ensure compliance with Article 67 of the Constitution by all projects.

The 18member selection panel will soon be set up and then have 60 days to select the 13member committee.

A permanent committee is expected to take 15 months to form because it will require parliamentary endorsement.

Anand said the interim adhoc committee would provide additional recommendations for EIAs and HIAs for all industrial projects potentially causing serious harm. However, priority will be given to the 64 suspended projects.

Thongchai Phansawat, an engineer and senior pollution expert who acts as an adviser to the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, chairs a subcommittee of the fourparty government panel. It has been tasked with studying industrial activities that damage the estate's environment, health and community.

A list of such activities will be finished in the next two months.

To help it draw up short and longterm blueprints for pollution reduction in Map Ta Phut, the fourparty panel has also appointed environmentalmanagement expert Suthin Yoosuk to study, assess and identify the sources of pollution problems in Map Ta Phut and the surrounding area.

That study will be finished within the next three months.