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Tourism industry to protest oil pipeline plan



Tourism industry to protest oil pipeline plan | Thaiger

PHUKET: Vice-Governor Vinai Buapradit will represent Phuket at what promises to be a heated meeting on Friday with Ministry of Energy (MoE) officials to discuss a proposed oil pipeline from Tab Lamu in Phnag Nga to Nakhon Sri Thammarat. The proposed 240-kilometer pipeline, known as the Strategic Energy Landbridge, is intended to link oil production sources in the Middle East with consumers in East Asia, avoiding the long journey that tankers must currently take around the end of the Malay Peninsula. “This is a very important meeting because MoE officials will come to listen to [our views about] the effect of the project on the provinces of Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi,” said Phuket Governor Udomsak Usawarangkura at a meeting at Provincial Hall this morning. “The project will affect Phuket’s main industry, tourism, so we have invited representatives from the private sector, such as the Phuket Chamber of Commerce and the Phuket Tourist Association [PTA] to attend [the meeting],” he added. PTA President Pattanapong Aikwanich told the Gazette that an Association representative would tell MoE officials that the project will have a negative impact on tourism in both Phuket and Khao Lak. The Gazette understands that the plan is to construct a platform for the western end of the pipeline in the sea several kilometers off Phang Nga’s Tab Lamu District, just south of Khao Lak. Tourism industry operators in Khao Lak are particularly fearful of the potentially devastating effects an oil spill could have on beaches there. “We may share information about past oil shipping accidents. Oil leaks occur all over the world nowadays, so we should be aware that they can happen here too,” K. Pattanapong said. “At a meeting in Phuket last year, I pointed this out and suggested that the project should be sited further north, possibly in Ranong. “But our recommendations went unheeded and the government has continued moving ahead with the project as planned,” he said. The original plan was to site the western terminal of the pipeline near Ao Leuk at the north end of Phang Nga Bay, with the eastern terminal being in Surat Thani. This was later changed out of concern over the project’s possible environmental effect on the tourism industries of Krabi and Koh Samui. Nipawan Bussarawit, a marine biologist at the Phuket Marine Biological Center, told the Gazette that because oil is less dense than water, it floats on the sea surface when spilled. Even a thin sheen can block sunlight, killing off plankton and disrupting the entire marine ecosystem, she said. It also enters the gills of fish, suffocating them. “Some parts [of a spill] would be blown up on beaches, where it would leave black stains and ruin nice scenery. “Oil released into the sea is eventually broken down by natural processes, but it takes a long time. This process can be accelerated thought the use of dispersal agents, and if they set up the system properly the amount of spillage can be minimized. “But the effects of an oil spill certainly need to be considered,” she added.


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