EEC riddled with problems

EEC riddled with problems

Despite continued boasting by the Prayut Chan-o-cha government about the progress of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), the fact of the matter is the government's flagship project is riddled with problems.

Last week, a House sub-committee on land use presented to parliament the problems it found across the EEC, which spans Chachoengsao, Chon Buri and Rayong.

But the problems didn't begin there. They started with state agencies ignoring public participation requirements -- a key principle espoused by the constitution -- in meetings which discussed town planning and land re-zoning.

On Nov 26, Pornpana Kuaycharoen, a land rights advocate and sub-committee member, told parliament the public hearings for the project were only held for ceremonial purposes.

The meetings, she said, were held so developers can have the land re-zoned from agricultural to industrial.

The EEC Act 2017, which allows the state to override local town plans to promote the industrialisation of the Eastern Seaboard, will further complicate the provinces' efforts to organise their land, as they will have to accommodate the industries that will be based in the EEC.

Ms Pornpana also cited environmental concerns, chief of which were fears of severe coastal erosion and dwindling sea catches as a result of the third phase of the Laem Chabang deep-sea port project.

It was estimated that some 3,000 rai of coastal land will have to be reclaimed for the port.

There were also concerns about pollution as a result of improper waste management, and potential conflicts over water between factories in EEC and farmers in nearby Chanthaburi.

The sub-committee also found the EEC has been developed without factoring in the eco-geographic conditions of the area.

Calls for a strategic environmental assessment (SEA), which is necessary for large-scale developments, have been ignored by the state, as the developer of the EEC.

It noted similar problems can be found in other areas which have been designated as industrial zones, including Chana district in Songkhla, where residents' demands for an SEA have never been acknowledged.

In short, Ms Pornpana lamented, the EEC is being pursued at a cost to the environment and people's livelihoods.

While useful, the study's proposed solutions are not legally binding.

As such, the ball is now with the Administrative Court, which in July last year ordered the state to respect each province's town planning rules and zoning regulations.

Without a court injunction, however, state agencies including the Public Works and Town Planning Department are quickly moving to take advantage of loopholes in land use regulations.

By the time the court issues a final ruling, things could be far too complicated.

The EEC's problems are caused by its shady origins, with the junta under Prime Minister Prayut using Section 44 of the coup charter to push for its quick realisation by overriding existing rules and banning protests against the scheme, which shut locals out of the process.

While Prime Minister Prayut recently claimed that the government prioritises sustainable development, what is going on in the EEC suggests otherwise.

He has to prove that he really means business by reviewing the entire scheme from top to bottom and fixing all of its mistakes.

Editorial

Bangkok Post editorial column

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

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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