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Phuket marina canal dredging stirs ire

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: The 12-million-baht project to deepen the Koh Kaew Canal and the existing approach channel from Phang Nga Bay has come under fire by villagers who claim that the method of dredging is endangering mangroves, marine life and residents’ livelihoods.

The project, aimed primarily at facilitating large-boat access to two private marinas – Boat Lagoon and Royal Phuket Marina – will dredge the 1.6-kilometer-long canal and the 3.6km approach channel so that they are two meters deep at low tide.

The dredging was approved at a public hearing in January (story here) and the six-month project started in March.

On Monday, roughly a month later, Jitti Intaracharoen of the Phuket Farmer’s Council filed a complaint with Phuket Governor Maitri Inthusut as he toured a shrimp farm in Pa Khlok.

“The problem with a certain kind of dredging is that it increases the concentration of nutrients in the water, which can stimulate plant and algae growth and decrease the amount of oxygen in the water. This causes fish and plants – like mangroves – to die,” Mr Jitti said.

The Koh Kaew project is using two dredging methods, Mr Jitti said. In the canal near the marinas, a backhoe takes up sludge from the canal floor and puts it on a barge which then dumps it in the sea. This one is safer for marine life, Mr Jitti explained.

The second method uses a drill to churn up the channel bed, then pumps the sludge to the side.

“I have been fighting against this method for 15 years,” Mr Jitti said.

“It leads to lower oxygen levels in the water and kills aquatic animals, including fish in local people’s traps, and shrimp and fish at bigger farms. It also damages mangroves in the area.

“The mangrove is a nursery for small aquatic animals. If the mangrove die, the animals will have to move somewhere else, and local people will lose their livelihoods.

“Our team opposed this project once in a public hearing, but we are just little people and nobody wanted to listen to us,” he said. “We were never informed of another hearing.”

Officials said that a deeper canal would allow larger boats, particularly luxury yachts, easier access to both marinas, and bring high-spending marine tourists to the island who would invigorate the local economy (story here).

“We know that the money from marinas, fishermen and the yacht and tourism industries is important for Phuket,” Mr Jitti said. “We’re not against the dredging per se, we just want a method that doesn’t affect the environment in this way.”

Gov Maitri acknowledged the environmental concerns and said he would ask relevant officers to find a solution.

The dredging is due to conclude in October.

— Saran Mitrarat

 

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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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