Red faces over Saphan Hin reclamation

PHUKET TOWN: Local authorities were red-faced this week after learning that part of the land reclamation at Saphan Hin appears to have been done illegally. The reclaimed land in question is next to the sea at the southeastern end of the road leading into Saphan Hin. It currently has a car park on one side and an open area on the other. The reclamation apparently breaks two laws: the Environmental Protection Act of 1992, which bars construction work in an environmental protection area, and the Thai Navigation Act of the same year, which bans construction work in the sea unless permission is first obtained from the local Harbor Master’s office. The revelation came after a recent visit by a team from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, which found that not only the Saphan Hin reclamation, but also the new Chalong Pier, contravene the Environmental Protection Act. The Ministry finding prompted the local Harbor Master’s office to point out that reclamation work done at Saphan Hin since 1992 also contravened the Navigation Act, since permission to carry it out had not been obtained from the Harbor Master. Aryoot Tarnsiriroj, vice mayor of the Phuket Town Municipality, which is responsible for the Saphan Hin area, explained, “We [the Phuket Town Municipality] have been improving the land since 1981. It was never our intention to harm the environment; we only wanted to improve the land. We wanted to make a green area or a park in Saphan Hin.” At a meeting held on Wednesday to discuss the problem, Provincial Governor Charnchai Soontharamut said that although he sympathized with the aims behind the Saphan Hin reclamation, he also needs, as governor, to preserve the law. “We need to follow the law before we change it to suit people’s needs,” he said. “When the municipality has finished its master plan, then we will begin public hearings. If everyone agrees [with what the municipality has already done and with what it plans to do], then we may decide that the law should be modified. We need to study both the advantages and disadvantages.” Until then, no more work will be done on the reclaimed land. As for the Chalong Pier, the Harbor Master, Region 5, gave permission for the construction company to build on the seabed, in compliance with the Navigation Act, but the Ministry team found that this project, too, contravenes the Environmental Protection Act. The penalty for breaking the Navigation Act is up to six months in prison or a fine of up to 10,000 baht, or both. For contravening the Environmental Protection Act, the penalties are much stiffer: up to five years in jail, or a fine of up to 500,000 baht, or both.

Phuket News
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