Seawall plan needs review

Seawall plan needs review

When civic and pro-democracy elements opposed the extension of the emergency decree for another month, state authorities, especially those from the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), tried to calm them down, saying that the draconian law is only meant to control the coronavirus outbreak better.

However, this is untrue, if not an outright lie.

Confronting an inconvenient truth are the locals of tambon Muang Ngam in Songkhla's Singha Nakhon district, who gathered on Sunday to voice their opposition to a dubious seawall construction project.

The Muang Ngam seawall scheme features 710 metres of concrete structure that the locals believe would harm their pristine beach, worsening beach erosion.

Their protest was disbanded by provincial police and the Internal Security Operations Command who insisted it breached the decree.

The locals have opposed the 80-million-baht seawall, designed by the Public Works and Town Planning Department under the Interior Ministry and the Marine Department.

They are adamant that a traditional method, with the use of sandbags in protecting the land at high tide in rough waters, is cheaper and more efficient, as they said they would remove the sandbags when the sea is calm.

They have learned from the failure of similar projects in the province and other areas.

Having complained that the seawall project is short on public participation, the villagers have sought the help of the Songkhla Administrative Court.

Unfortunately, the state authorities have not heeded their concerns. On the contrary, they have accelerated construction, further fuelling people's anger.

One thing in common about the controversial Muang Ngam seawall and the Southern Economic Zone or Southern Economic Corridor (SEC), another mega-project designated for Chana district in the province, is the top-down decision-making by state authorities.

They have only paid lip service to the principle of public participation, which is supposed to be guaranteed by the 2017 constitution.

Earlier this month, state officials shamefully prepared for a series of public forums for the contentious SEC during Ramadan. The forums would have violated the emergency decree.

Public criticism then caused them to postpone the forums.

Examples of the problems with concrete seawalls are abundant. Several crumbled quickly after construction was completed.

The taste for expensive work raises suspicions about the misuse of state budget.

The State Audit Office (SAO), which found shortcomings with these projects in its 2011 report, should come out and expose them to the powers-that-be.

The report said state auditors inspected 70 seawall projects in 18 coastal provinces at a total cost of 3.4 billion baht. They found that 60 were substandard and were blamed for environmental problems.

Such information should be enough to ensure that all seawall projects are reviewed, and for the same reason, the Muang Ngam proposal should be suspended.

The emergency decree should no longer be hypocritically used to silence the people. Instead, a wider debate over such seawalls should be allowed.

The Prayut administration must step in and ensure the Muang Ngam project is put on hold, giving the local people a chance to have their say.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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