Rights body wants to see impact study

CHEVRON PORT PLAN UNDER ATTACK

NAKHON SI THAMMARAT : The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked a state planning body to review its approval of an environmental impact study for the controversial Chevron port project.

The NHRC issued the request after holding a forum in Tha Sala district to hear the opinions of local residents, fishermen and authorities on Tuesday.

Residents, including fishermen, have opposed the planned construction of Chevron's port in tambon Klai of Tha Sala district, saying it would damage their livelihoods.

Chevron plans to build a deep-sea port stretching 330m out into the sea to aid its oil drilling and exploration work in the Gulf of Thailand.

A chemical storage site would also be built at the location.

The project's environmental health impact assessment (EHIA) report has been approved by the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (Onep), paving the way for its construction. But a complaint filed with the NHRC claimed the report distorted facts and used outdated information.

NHRC commissioner Niran Pitakwatchara said the report does not adhere to academic standards and there are grounds to oppose the EHIA.

The people affected had the right to know about the impact on them and to decide whether they want it, he said.

Mr Niran said he had asked Onep to provide him with the full report so that it can be studied thoroughly.

Chevron has said it is not yet ready to submit its version to the commission and will do so at a later date.

Mr Niran said the NHRC does not have the authority to scrap the EHIA or stop the project.

Independent  researcher Prasitchai Noonuan helped local residents conduct their own report, dubbed the community health impact assessment. He said their report has been completed and will be submitted to the Onep for comparison.

Mr Prasithichai said Chevron's EHIA, which says the port construction would not damage the environment, is unlawful and does not reflect local views.

During public hearings to draft the EHIA, most residents of Tha Sala walked out, he said. Only five residents accepted the EHIA, yet this was considered enough by Onep to make the report legitimate. "I don't know why Onep approved such a report which might be illegal," he said.

Charoen Toh-itae, a local fisherman at Ban Naithung in tambon Tha Sala, said his livelihood would be affected by the construction. More than 200 species of aquatic animals in Tha Sala gulf would be harmed by the ensuing pollution, he said.

The EHIA's scope covers only a five kilometre radius from the location of the port, which is too narrow to assess its total environmental impact, critics say.

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Writer: Patsara Jikkham
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