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Phuket Opinion: New hope for mangroves?

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Phuket Opinion: New hope for mangroves? | Thaiger

PHUKET: Despite the real and obvious need to improve Phuket’s road network, local leaders must refrain from taking part in unauthorized efforts to push through high-priority projects, or allowing or encouraging others to do so.

The latest example came on June 19, when hundreds of people assembled on the dead-end Sakdidet Rd Soi 7 intending to bring in heavy equipment to clear six rai of protected mangrove forest needed to finally complete a government road project begun over 10 years ago. (See front page story in this week’s Phuket Gazette. Digital subscribers click here.)

The Gazette sympathizes with people who commute between Saphan Hin and the south of the island, but recent events in Thailand underscore the need to uphold the rule of law, which is clear in its requirement that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) sign off on large projects before work can begin.

That a large number of local leaders continue to push for the road’s completion is fine, but going any further before the project is formally approved is not. For this reason, Phuket City Police were correct in preventing machinery from getting to the site and diffusing the situation peacefully in the absence of the governor, who happened to be out of town at the time.

The case is not the only one of its kind involving Phuket’s dwindling mangrove forest reserves in recent months.

In April it emerged that Wichit Municipality went ahead without MNRE approval to build a road and a football pitch covering a five-rai area along the Klong Mudong estuary. The town is pushing the area as a tourist attraction.

The reason given to members of a Senate panel that came to investigate a complaint about the encroachment was that the town wanted to develop the land for the good of the local community “before it’s too late” and that the slow-moving MNRE approval process hindered that goal.

Such cases show that despite the countless mangrove-planting ceremonies and other public relations exercises conducted over the years, some local officials still have about as much respect for mangroves as they have for the rule of law.

The Gazette would like to see the Sakdidet Soi 7 road extension move forward, but with the “mangrove flyover” that has been recommended by the MNRE for years.

Although far more expensive than regular road construction techniques, a look at the deplorable state of so many of Phuket’s roads these days reveals that in the battle between asphalt and water, the latter always seems to win in the long run anyway.

 

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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