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A Decade Ago: Parched ground trembles and Big Buddha construction starts

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: Ground was broken a decade ago for the iconic Big Buddha image, which has already become a reassuring and dominating fixture on the skyline of southern Phuket.

“The world’s biggest meditating Buddha [Pang Manravichai] should be finished in the next three years,” Suporn Vanichakul, who remains the head of the project committee, told the Gazette in 2005.

Ten years later, construction at the site continues as numerous side projects sprout up on the Forestry Department land, nestled atop the Nakkerd Hills at an elevation of 400 meters above sea level. Prior to the project, the Forestry Department had consistently refused to grant permission to those wanting to use the protected land for commercial ventures.

However, they gave the green light when asked for the land to be used to construct a Buddha image, which was a non-profit development. Even after the project got underway, it wasn’t smooth sailing for Mr Suporn. Just last year, landslide risks and water management concerns were tabled by the local government.

The real irony of the season, however, was nestled in a single column on Page 1 of the August 27- September 2 issue of the Gazette: Rainmakers return to Phuket.

Fears of water shortages – yes, shortages at this time of the year – led to the Royal Rainmaking Project being called in. With Phuket Governor Nisit Jansomwong currently calling on all relevant authorities to help prevent Patong Police Station and a number of villages from becoming underwater archeological sites, it is hard to imagine the need for cloud seeding during the ‘Green Season’.

However, perhaps our current predicament can be partially traced back to the government’s concern about managing water resources on the island, as it was at the forefront of a number of governor’s agendas over the last decade.

Additionally, the establishment of reservoirs was also a priority for the late Phuket Provincial Administration Organization President Paiboon Upatising. These efforts have paid off. Though that’s not to say there aren’t issues still remaining in places like Kamala. However, at least we aren’t trying to pull anymore rain out of the clouds that are already so well endowed.

That being said, the pace of development, poorly organized drainage systems and the blocking of natural water routes has led to many of the flooding problems that leave most of us wondering if perhaps a kayak is the wiser form of transportation during the ‘Green Season’.

The sluice to troubled waters in the August 27 issue though was let open when Bangkok Bank broke ranks with the Thai banking establishment to become the first Thai bank to offer mortgages targeting foreigners wanting to buy property in Thailand.

Though the measure was an essential step to level the playing field for developers and real estate agents battling against other tropical destination markets, a person doesn’t have to be on the island long to hear the never-ending sob stories of foreigners having their dream villas pulled out from under them faster than the table cloth on a magician’s dining table.

— Isaac Stone Simonelli

 

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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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