Environmental reviews for Chana estate

Environmental reviews for Chana estate

Locals opposing the Chana Industrial Estate project in Songkhla last year. Pornprom Satrabhaya
Locals opposing the Chana Industrial Estate project in Songkhla last year. Pornprom Satrabhaya

The government vows to move ahead with the much-criticised Chana Industrial Estate in Songkhla, though it is requiring responsible agencies to conduct an environmental impact assessment (EIA), environmental health impact assessment (EHIA) as well as public hearings.

Speaking after chairing a meeting with related agencies including the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC) to find a compromise for the controversial industrial estate, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said SBPAC will be allowed to continue handling the project.

He said the agency is required to hold public hearings on the project development, while the private developer needs to carry out the EIA and EHIA. Both have to propose their studies to the cabinet for consideration and approval.

The cabinet approved in principle the Chana Industrial Estate in Songkhla on May 7, 2019, following a proposal by SBPAC.

The project has been touted as a model for future industrial developments by SBPAC and a way to help the local economy.

The private sector would contribute 100% of investment for the project. It is part of the government's development plans for the southernmost provinces, covering Chana district in Songkhla, Sungai Kolok district in Narathiwat, Betong in Yala and Nong Chik district in Pattani.

The private sector also invests in all the infrastructure in the industrial estate. It was initially estimated there would be at least 200 private investment projects in the estate.

The project has faced strong resistance from local communities and civic rights groups, especially because the government reportedly planned to rezone the land from agricultural to industrial use.

Last week, the government decided to put the entire project on hold, citing the National Economic and Social Development Council's (NESDC) exclusion from discussions.

Danucha Pichayanan, secretary-general of the NESDC, said the project was proposed by SBPAC and the NESDC was not involved in the project from the outset.

The NESDC suggested the project may require an additional feasibility study for a more appropriate location for each industry, as well as more public hearings to address public concerns.

A source from SBPAC who requested anonymity said projects that require an EIA study are typically power plants and warehouses, while projects that require EHIA study are usually industrial estates and multi-purpose seaports.

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