Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Residents oppose port expansion

Residents opposing the construction of the third phase of the Laem Chabang deep-sea port are demanding the government halt further studies until there are concrete signs of improvement in the local environment.

The move comes after the Transport Ministry proposed a 120-billion-baht project over seven years to expand the busy Chon Buri port.

The port has undergone two development phases, and Transport Minister Jarupong Ruangsuwan is calling for a third phase, advised by Team Group.

The proposed expansion will increase the port's annual cargo-handling capacity to 18.8 million 20-foot equivalent units, sufficient for over the next two decades.

At present, the port handles 55% of Thailand's exports and imports.

The port expansion is part of the projects aimed at connecting the Eastern Seaboard to a planned deep-sea port and industrial estate in Dawei, Myanmar.

The expansion affects more than 1,000 households in Bang Lamung district, said local resident Chokthana Uppatham.

The government is paying 25,000 baht a rai for land reclamation, while it costs more than 100,000 baht a rai to purchase land outside the area.

Some 200 households have no place to live _ some are renting space in temples _ and the Port Authority of Thailand (PAT) is not providing any help, said Mr Chokthana.

A fisherman said the expansion will further reduce the fishing area.

While the PAT promised 1,200 rai of available land for fishing, the area shrinks to 500 rai during low tide.

PAT director Viroj Chongchansittho said if environmental and health impact assessments are not conducted and the project is not accepted, then the expansion cannot occur.

Pakkaratorn Teainchai, the Chon Buri vice-governor, said: "Chon Buri will not let [the construction] happen if it affects a large number of people."

Somnuck Jongmeewasin, an independent community researcher, is proposing expansion of the fishery and tourism sectors along the Eastern Seaboard, as capacity has already been reached.