The ongoing dispute between residents living near Suvarnabhumi airport and airport management has reared up again since the announcement of plans for a third and fourth runway.
Residents have complained about noise pollution and other issues since the international airport opened in September 2006.
Thanaphan Suksa-ard, an academic with the Department of Environmental Quality Promotion who has studied the impact of the airport on the residents, said the issues have not been resolved and yet the Airports of Thailand (AoT) will press on with the additional runways, which stand to affect an even larger number of people.
The researcher has urged the AoT to clearly declare areas which would be affected by the runways and to work with City Hall to prohibit the creation of new residential projects there, otherwise the problems would only intensify.
The areas expected to be affected by the airport's noise pollution should be designated as industrial zones instead, Mr Thanaphan said. "I've proposed this to the AoT, but so far no progress has been made and those areas of land have already been bought by property developers," he said.
A few years before the airport opened, residential projects sprung up around the airport and buyers were lured into purchasing the properties.
Advertising for the developments boasted of the benefits of easy access to the airport without saying anything about the hidden problems.
A recent foreign study showed people living near airports ran a higher risk of heart disease and this tendency was being observed among the residents near Suvarnabhumi, Mr Thanaphan said.
Suvarnabhumi airport director Somchai Sawasdipol said 90% of about 15,000 people affected by noise pollution had been compensated and only about 1,000 affected people had yet to be paid due to problems with proving their ownership of the affected properties.
"About 4,000 households are expected to be affected by the construction of the third runway and about 7.9 billion baht has been set aside as compensation for them," said Mr Somchai, who assured that when the new runways are in use, the noise pollution caused by Runways 1 and 2 should decrease.
Runway 3 would bring about better management of air traffic at Suvarnabhumi, he said, adding that construction of this runway would be complete no later than 2018.
But Wanchart Manasombat, a leader of a group of residents affected by the airport's noise pollution, was not convinced. He said the additional runways would only help cut the frequency of aircraft in the short term, as the numbers of flights in and out of the airport would continue to grow. Before the AoT builds the new runways, he said, he wants full compensation to be paid to 14,000 affected people who he claims have only received about half of the amount to which they were entitled.
Tomorrow: Runway crack solutions
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- Writer: Amornrat Mahitthirook