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Phuket Lake Filling: A sneak behind the watershed

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Lake Filling: A sneak behind the watershed | Thaiger

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A housing developer faces legal action if he continues filling in a lake north of Samkong. Soil-dumping as part of an anti-erosion project may continue as long as health issues are addressed.

The Phuket Gazette‘s Irfarn Jamdukor reports.

PHUKET: Rassada Municipality is preparing to file a police complaint if the lake filling at the Srisuchart Grandview housing estate, located on the bypass road, extends beyond “containing bankside erosion”.

The municipality ordered Srisuchart Grandview Co Ltd to shore up the banks of the lake to prevent erosion, as reported on page one of the December 14 issue of the Gazette.

However, the company began adding soil to the banks in an area not indicated by the municipality before being stopped and redirected to the area of erosion.

At one section of the lake, dump trucks filled in more than 70 meters from where the bank once stood – far beyond the 30m tract approved that allowed the dump trucks delivering the payloads of soil to turn around.

Yet, it was public pressure through protest and a raft of serious health issues that prompted the threat of legal action and a “ban on the entire project” by Rassada Municipality.

“We ordered work to cease on March 6 following a protest by local residents. They called for action to be taken to reduce the noise and dust created by the trucks hauling soil into the area,” explained Rassada Mayor Phudit Raksarat.

The dense clouds of dust alone raised serious health concerns, with adult residents seeking hospital treatment and infants developing breathing difficulties (see page 36 – 37 of the hard-copy of the Phuket Gazette on newsstands today).

Work on containing the bankside erosion was allowed to resume, but only after the contractor agreed to implement eight countermeasures to reduce the noise and dust created by the incessant parade of dump trucks.

“We have plain clothes officers inspecting the site every day,” explained Nipit Jaruenkarn, chief of Rassada Municipality’s Engineering Division.

“We are only allowing them to continue the anti-erosion work, of which about 20 per cent remains to be done.

“If the anti-pollution measures are not adhered to, or if they start dumping soil in the lake where it does not counter erosion, we will file a police complaint against the contractor and the landowner.”

IT’S ONLY NATURAL

Kasem Sukwaree, chief of the Phuket office of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE), said that reinforcing the banks to stop erosion was not a problem.

“Exactly how much can be filled in is at the discretion of the environmental experts at Rassada Municipality,” he said.

“I think 30 meters would be about right, but 70 meters is too much. That’s not for erosion control. It means they want to do something on the land – and that is illegal.”

Mr Kasem also clarified that a landowner cannot fill in a lake on his own land – even if the landowner has a Chanote title for the property.

“Anyone wanting to carry out any form of construction that will affect a natural water resource must first have the permission of our office, as stipulated by the National Environmental Quality Act [NEQA].”

Section 12 of the act empowers local administrations, such as municipalities, and MNRE offices to preserve any water resource as a utility for people living nearby and to prevent public hazards such as flooding, Mr Kasem explained.

“The penalty for ignoring this order is up to one year in prison or a fine of up to 100,000 baht, or both,” he said.

WORTH PROTECTING?

Although Mr Kasem extolled the importance of preserving natural water resources, he admitted that he was not aware of how important the Srisuchart lake might be.

“We are responsible for overseeing the ‘big view’ in Phuket,” he said. “When it comes to specific information about the importance of lakes in each area, the local municipality or even local residents would be able to give better information than us.”

To that, local resident Veerayuth Sengsawang, 42, explained to the Gazette that the Srisuchart lake was the primary catchment for rain runoff from the hills that run along the west side of the bypass road.

“We have three lakes in the area. The lake being filled in is the biggest and on higher ground than the others,” he said.

“Water flows from this lake to the other two. If this lake is filled in, more water will flow very quickly to the lower lakes and cause flooding.”

PAPER TIGER

Chief Kasem was also at pains to point out that his office had no authority to initiate any legal action.
“By law, the MNRE has no authority to press charges or file police complaints against people we believe have broken environmental laws,” he said.

“We can investigate when called on by local authorities and pass on any complaints we receive to the relevant local administrations, but other than that there is nothing we can do.”

Mr Kasem said he had sent two formal notices to Rassada Mayor Phudit over the past year, reminding him of the MNRE’s duty to preserve natural resources.

“We sent a notice in July last year and again on February 13, but we have not received any requests to investigate any water resources in Rassada,” he said.

“The mayor has yet to file a complaint to the police. Whether that is done depends entirely on the municipality.”

— Irfarn Jamdukor

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

Tourism

Phuket’s July Sandbox no-quarantine model “needs a major revamp”

Tim Newton

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Phuket’s July Sandbox no-quarantine model “needs a major revamp” | Thaiger
PHOTO: The monsoon waves are starting to hit Phuket's west coast

Thailand’s Sports and Tourism minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn is acknowledging that Phuket’s ‘Sandbox’ model for a no-quarantine re-opening in July will need “a major revamp”. As the Songkran travel bubble bursts and the monsoon season waves start to roll onto the island’s west coast beaches, Phuket’s scheduled July re-boot suddenly seems a long way off.

Minister Phiphat says he plans to meet with “all related agencies” this week. Apart from the latest national re-surge in new infections, Phuket has been unable to get its hands on sufficient vaccines to meed its deadline of 70% of the island vaccinated by July 1. Thailand’s limited supplies of the vaccine – including some 930,000 doses designated for Phuket – are being rerouted to other provinces as the government prioritises the limited supply.

“We are all concerned about the reopening timeline,” he was quoted in Bangkok Post.

But the Minister did acknowledge that, if the 70% vaccination level couldn’t be met, they may consider opening some areas of the island. Exactly how that would work hasn’t been revealed at this stage.

The minister also brought up the ongoing travel bubble negotiations and says he hadn’t heard back from some of the candidates with their reaction to the current outbreak.

Flights in and out of Phuket Airport’s international terminal have been extremely patchy and the flights from feeder tourist markets will need to co-operate with any re-opening plans.

Phuket, whilst suffering a rise in new infections, hasn’t been hit as hard as some of the other popular holiday provinces, like Chiang Mai, Chon Buri (Pattaya) and Prachuap Khiri Khan (Hua Hin).

This year’s Songkran was going to be a major stepping stone for the island’s recovery and many hotels, some who had opened especially to cater for Songkran holiday traffic, noted a lot of cancellations just prior to the break.

But some island hotels have still reported high occupancy rates over the past week. One Manager, who did not want his name published, said that their hotel was almost full with Thai patrons, most who had pre-paid for their flights and accommodation and decided to go ahead anyway.

Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, the president of the Phuket Tourist Association, says that they are opposed to any lockdown as it would cripple the island, with its tourist businesses already suffering greatly. He stated that 15% of people cancelled their Songkran bookings, while 30% had postponed their trips.

The Sports and Tourism Ministers is still in quarantine after having close contact with Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, who was diagnosed with Covid-19 2 weeks ago.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Phuket begs Kolour attendees to come for Covid-19 testing

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Phuket begs Kolour attendees to come for Covid-19 testing | Thaiger
FILE PHOTO: Kolour in the park was more pleasant in 2018 before Covid-19.

Health officials in Phuket put out a public statement this week compelling all foreigners who attended clubs and ‘Kolour’ events to report for Covid-19 testing. As many might expect, the response has been lacklustre at best. Spreading the message around the foreigner and expat community in Phuket, the message is aimed at the multitudes of people, mostly foreign who attended Kolour and related events that turned into a Covid-19 superspreader event. Many foreigners have not come forward, much to health officials chagrin.

Online and on social media, foreigners and Thais shed light on why this urgent public health request is going largely unheeded. Foreigners fear the repercussions of coming forward, especially since Thailand is not allowing staying home or elsewhere in isolation if someone tests positive for Covid-19. Quarantine is mandatory, and with infection numbers exploding across the country, many fear the less-than-posh comforts of being quarantined in an emergency field hospital.

Cost is the other factor that likely is preventing foreigners from turning themselves in to be tested for Covid-19. While Phuket health officials may test people for free, anyone found infected with Covid-19 will be financially responsible for all the costs of their treatment and quarantine. Foreigners with limited financial resources, especially after a year of holing up in Thailand to ride out the Coronavirus, may resist reporting to authorities when they cannot afford the mandatory quarantine and medical treatment.

Perhaps recognizing this hesitation, the message includes a plea for all attendees to self-quarantine and self-monitor for any symptoms over the next week, even if they fail to report or test negative. The note also reminds everyone to wear masks in public at all times. The statement to the public also instructed anyone who attended any of the Covid-19 spreading nightlife events to report to the Acute Respiratory Infection Clinic area of Vachira General Hospital to receive a Covid-19 swab test.

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions

Tim Newton

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Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions | Thaiger

Three of Thailand’s biggest expat areas are seeing sharp rises in new infections, partly from pre-Songkran traffic. The Songkran holidays, now officially over (but will see many people taking today off and making a weekend Songkran extension), and the government says they are expecting to see a rise in the cases numbers reported in the popular holiday locations.

Chon Buri Public Health office says they now have a total of 910 infections since April 1. They have 103 new cases in the past 24 hours. Most new cases are in Bang Lamung district which includes Pattaya City with 47, Siracha with 12) & Chon buri City with 8.

Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions | News by Thaiger

Meanwhile Phuket has a total of 142 infections recorded on the island with the Governor still insisting there will be no need for a lockdown. Here’s a breakdown of the areas and the numbers of recorded infections so far (below).

Governor Narong announced that the Phuket Infectious Disease Control Committee won’t be implementing an official lockdown, but will “strictly raise the intensity of public health measures to counter the spread of Covid-19″.

“Everyone should wear a face mask, maintain social distancing, wash their hands frequently and install the Mor Chana app (available for free from App Store and Google Play Store).”

A meeting of the CCSA, chaired by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha is expected to upgrade restrictions in red zone areas around the country, which includes Phuket and Pattaya. Read more about the latest red and orange zones HERE.

Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions | News by Thaiger

For Hua Hin expats, there’s been 100 new Covid-19 infections announced in Prachuap Khiri Khan in the past 24 hours, 75 cases from Hua Hin. This takes the total in the province since April 1 to 625. Hua Hin accounts for nearly 90% of the district’s total cases.

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