Checklist to replace EIA for seawalls

Checklist to replace EIA for seawalls

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment will use a "preliminary environmental checklist" to review proposals about the construction of seawalls to prevent coastal erosion.

The checklist will be designed in such a way that clearly outlines major environmental concerns which applicants need to address in their planning of their projects. This checklist, the ministry said, will replace the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) requirement for seawall-related projects.

In 2013, the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy Planning removed seawalls from a list of infrastructure projects which requires the successful completion of EIAs prior to their approval. The office reasoned since coastal erosion has a direct impact on people's livelihoods, any project which seeks to mitigate its impact on Thai coastlines must be approved as quickly as possible.

Pinsak Suraswadi, deputy director-general of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, said he is aware of the extent of coastal erosion in the country, which is often worsened by the rapid pace of infrastructure development.

As such, he said, relevant agencies have been invited to help draw up appropriate measures to mitigate the problem.

"We agreed that we need to come up with a simple checklist, which will act both as a guideline [for contractors] as well as a benchmark [for the ministry] that is stringent enough to replace EIAs," he said.

He said he was certain the preliminary environmental checklist will be a more efficient way to limit the negative impact on the environment and prevent further damages to the natural ecosystem.

He said the department is working closely with an academic team to conduct a survey of a 3,000-kilometre-long stretch of coastline along the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea.

"The information obtained will be used to draft a plan to prevent coastal erosion along the coast," he said.

However, Sakanan Plathong, a lecturer of Prince of Songkla University's Faculty of Science, disagrees with the use of the preliminary checklist in lieu of EIAs, because it does not allow for a wider, more subjective interpretation of environmental protection criteria.

"The problem is actually becoming much worse since the government stopped requiring EIAs for seawall construction," he said.

"Without EIAs, we have seen an increasing number of seawall project, some of which are completely unnecessary. It is only making the situation worse," he said.

Mr Sakanan had previously submitted a letter to the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, demanding a review of Thailand's coastal erosion prevention scheme.

He said that seawalls are a stop-gap measure that will only lead to more problems in the future, if the root of the problem remains unaddressed.

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