Phuket “mangrove road’ EIA approved

PHUKET: After more than a decade, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) has finally approved an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for a controversial road through a mangrove forest in Phuket Town.

News that the EIA of the Klong Koh Phee Road project had been approved was announced yesterday at a project committee meeting chaired by Phuket Governor Tri Augkaradacha at Provincial Hall.

During the meeting, Phuket City Mayor Somjai Suwansupapana said that an expert committee from the MNRE approved the application on December 1, 2010.

The approval followed an aerial survey of the site by visiting Deputy Prime Minister Sanan Kajornprasart in November.

The application was the fifth submitted for the project, which involves construction of a 600-meter elevated roadway connecting Saphan Hin with Sakdidet Road Soi 7.

The stumbling block for over a decade was the the effect the project would have on mangroves in the area.

The big break for the project’s many supporters came on July 30 last year when the MNRE issued an exception on its 2003 blanket ban on public use of mangrove forest land. However, the exception stipulated that any such projects could only go forward with cabinet approval.

The cabinet request should be filed with the Ministry of Interior by the end of the month, the committee was told.

Meanwhile, Phuket City Municipality will prepare a formal request to the Forestry Department in order to use the reserve land.

As soon as cabinet permission is granted, the Municipality will submit its request.

In terms of funding, Department of Rural Roads Phuket Office Director Teeraporn Jirarattanakorn said his office had set an initial budget of five to ten million baht for project planning and draft design.

If the cabinet approves the request before March, this funding could come from the agency’s 2011 fiscal budget, he said.

The construction budget would have to come from the fiscal 2012 budget, he said.

Total project costs would likely exceed 200 million baht, more than the 180-million-baht figure given at the last meeting on September 24, he said.

Approval of the EIA will come as good news to former Phuket Governor Wichai Phraisa-ngop, who cited completion of the road as his “farewell wish” before his retirement in September.

— Pimwara Choksakulpan

Phuket News
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