Locals fight Chevron's deep-sea port

GOVT SLAMMED FOR APPROVING ENVIRONMENTAL REPORT WITH 'INCORRECT INFORMATION'

Residents of Nakhon Si Thammarat's Tha Sala district and environmental activists have accused authorities of going ahead with plans to build a deep-sea port in the area based on an assessment report containing inaccurate information.

They also slammed the developer for ignoring the concerns of residents and fisherman, who believe the port will devastate their livelihoods.

They claimed that the Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning Office (Onep) approved an environmental and health impact assessment which contained "incorrect information".

Prasitchai Noonuan, coordinator of the Network of Food Sources Protection in Nakhon Si Thammarat, said that the assessment played down the potential effects of the deep-sea port. It states, for example, that it would only affect nine families and 20 fishing boats in the area.

"Thousands of families in the seafood business will be affected," he said, adding that the industry in Tha Sala generates over 390 million baht in income a year.

The US oil company Chevron plans to build a deep-sea port and chemical storage site in Tha Sala district. The project will support the company's oil drilling and exploration work in the Gulf of Thailand.

The port will stretch 330m out into the sea.

Onep's technical committee approved the environmental assessment report in September. The report will be forwarded to the Independent Commission on Environment and Health, which will then make a recommendation to the Marine Department on whether to grant a construction permit for the project.

Locals yesterday voiced their concerns over the project at a forum held by the National Health Commission Office. They said the project will have a grave impact on one of the country's most fertile seafood sources as well as local fishermen.

Charoen Toh-etae, vice-chairman of Ban Nai Thong Conservation Group, said although the project is awaiting final approval, fishermen had already been banned from the construction site.

"The deep-sea port will destroy our fishing careers and our livelihoods. Large vessels and busy marine traffic will chase marine animals away," he said.

Paranee Sawadirak, a member of the Civil Society Planning Network, said Tha Sala had been declared a green zone under Nakhon Si Thammarat's new city planning. This means industrial activities are not allowed in the area.

"Nakhon Si Thammarat is following in the footsteps of Rayong's Map Ta Phut. It all begin there with a deep-sea port and then a petrochemical industry and then pollution," she said.

The locals also feared the deep-sea port would change water currents and lead to coastal erosion.

Onep secretary-general Santi Boonprakup insisted the agency had carefully considered the assessment report and had verified the information provided by the project developer.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Apinya Wipatayotin
Position: Reporter