Phuket officials lay into landslide concerns caused by Big Buddha construction

PHUKET: Landslide risks and water management concerns caused by the construction of Phuket’s Big Buddha image were on the table yesterday as officials met for the first time since work at the site slammed to a halt last month.

Construction at the popular tourist attraction was put on hold after villagers filed a complaint and prompted an inspection of the site that revealed several violations and potential landslide hazards (story here).

“The top priority is preventing landslides before the rainy season begins,” said Vice Governor Somkiet Sangkaosuttirak. “All relevant officers need to brainstorm preventive strategies and present them at a meeting next month.”

V/Gov Somkiet also asked that the early-detection system already installed in Karon, to warn residents in the event of a landslide down Nakkered Hill (story here), be checked to ensure it is in working order before the rainy season starts.

The stability of the mammoth statue itself was also an issue, said Karon Subdistrict Chief (Kamnan) Winai Chidchiew.

“A road has been built around Big Buddha and created a slope that could precipitate landslides and cause the Big Buddha to slide down the hill,” he said.

The site has also caused concerns about water management, such as dirty-water runoff from construction and water shortages, he added.

“About 300 meters away from Big Buddha, a wedge has been dug out of a hillside that slopes down to a natural reservoir supplying villages in Karon. The dug-out area will interrupt the flow of water down to the reservoir, which could cause water shortages,” the vice governor said.

“Moreover, the construction is never-ending. More and more projects are started without permission from the local municipality. When will it be finished?”

Suporn Vanitchakul, president of the Phraphuttha Mingmongkol Sattha 45 Foundation and head of Big Buddha construction, apologized.

“I would like to apologize for the inconveniences caused by the construction. My actions are well-intentioned,” he said.

“I did not mean to harm anyone in the process and have agreed to compensate those affected. I want to help officials resolve the problems caused by Big Buddha construction.”

The date for the next meeting has yet to be announced.

— Saran Mitrarat

Phuket News
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