Phuket: Are officials ‘paper tigers’ on the environment?

Phuket: Are officials ‘paper tigers’ on the environment?

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Perennial critic Sutha Prateep Na Thalang, in his role as President of the Coastal People of Chalong Bay lashed out at officials at public meeting at the Pearl Hotel in Phuket Town on Friday (December 20), aimed at increasing awareness and understanding of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs).

EIAs, the packed meeting of about 150 people was told, are an important tool to assist predictions of positive and negative environmental impacts from the development of projects or businesses, and to control developers of projects to ensure that their projects do minimal damage to the environment.

Their use was introduced in 1992 as part of the Enhancement and Conservation of National Environmental Quality Act.

Governor Maitree Intusut, chairing the meeting, gave a broad review of all the problems on the island, ranging from population to ATM robberies to foreigners ignoring red “no swimming” flags at beaches.

Mentioning that mangrove forest must be maintained in order to protect the island from erosion, he then homed in on the main topic, explaining that Phuket is a special province that needs to be closely monitored in order to avoid problems in the future.

As society grows and changes there is increasing need for places where people live, where they gather, and where they do business, all of which need to be looked after to ensure the best living conditions “forever”.

He added that the needs and requirements of local people, include Sea Gypsies, should be a priority.

Piyanun Sophonkhanaporn, Provincial Director of Environmental Impact Assessment, explained that the development of the country produces air pollution, including construction dust, along with waste water.

“So, before building anything, we need to study the project to ensure that it has the least negative impact on the local community and people who regularly travel through the area,” she said.

Mr Sutha was not impressed. He slammed the provincial government as “a paper tiger that cannot succeed in solving environmental problems”.

He said that every project should be overseen by an independent consultancy to ensure that the project is built correctly, according to the EIA.

But EIAs, he said, are ineffective in controlling pollution. EIAs cannot prevent antibacterial detergents being released into waterways and the sea, destroying microorganisms.

He claimed that in the past 20 years, since EIAs were introduced, muddy runoff had “destroyed 70 per cent of the coral in Phuket”.

“EIAs cannot stop water used for cleaning fish being dumped into the sea and destroying microorganism. EIAs cannot prevent the dumping of garbage.”

He said the provincial government should be telling local people how they can sue individual officials who do nothing about environmental complaints, without having to go round in circles first.

“The government should do the right thing not just do nothing. I go to 20 meetings a month but it’s pointless. All that happens is my bedroom gets filled up with documents.

The Phuket News

Image: Phuket News

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