Aquaculture and Fisheries News => Aquaculture News => ข้อความที่เริ่มโดย: Nicaonline ที่ กรกฎาคม 09, 2007, 11:47:29 AM

หัวข้อ: Thailand, Fish farmer in public resource dispute
เริ่มหัวข้อโดย: Nicaonline ที่ กรกฎาคม 09, 2007, 11:47:29 AM
Source: Bangkok Post  World News    8/07/2007 18:17:38

Supara Janchitfah
It was a costly and eye opening experience for Yod Tavornkran when all the fish he was raising for market suddenly died. When he tried to find someone to take responsibility for his loss, which was devastating for the small time businessman, he faced only indifference from various private and state agencies.


"It shows us the unaccountability of the corporate sector to society. We can't expect government officials to redress our problems either," said Yod, who gave up fish farming a few years ago.


On the August 2003 night he and six neighbours who also raised fish inside baskets in Mae Rampueng canal discovered the massive die-off, and his wife collected some water from one of the fish baskets into a clean bottle. Later the Provincial Fishery Office sent the water to an industrial centre in Ratchaburi province for a laboratory test. Yod also filed a complaint at Bang Saphan district police station in Prachuap Khiri Khan.


He and his neighbours suspect that the die-off may have been caused by wastewater discharged from the nearby Sahaviriya Steel Industry (SSI)-Barmill plant, or possibly from fuel oil which leaked into a small canal that passes through the company grounds and later connects to Mae Rampueng canal.


Concerned state agencies are supposed to be conducting an investigation to try to find out who was at fault for the fish die-off, and the villagers' group has had a number of meetings with provincial officials from the agencies and the SSI and its subsidiaries.


When the results of the test came back, Yod and the other villagers could not understand what was stated in the report, as it was in English. Worse still, he said, one of the Sahaviriya staff kept the lab report after the villagers had their chance to see it. Yod and the others are simple folk and not accustomed to dealing with such matters. They did not even think of making a photocopy.


Sahaviriya declined to respond to the claim that its staff kept the test report, but has consistently denied that the die-off could have been caused by water discharged by any of its subsidiary companies.


When the villagers asked about the progress of the investigation, officials from the relevant government agencies just said, "It's in the process."


Yod submitted petition letters to many agencies, including the the Royal Initiated Project Centre in Hua Hin. Whenever anyone from these agencies inquired about the investigation, they got the same answer from provincial officials.


"My case was shown in an ITV programme, and it was covered by Thai Rath newspaper, but no action has been taken," said Yod in despair.


"We want justice," said Yod, speaking for his neighbours as well, but no one will claim responsibility for the dead fish in the canal.


Sahaviriya Group of Companies (SGC) environmental adviser Thongchai Indarangura na Ayudhaya said he has no idea about what caused the die-off, adding that SSI has zero wastewater discharge because its system recycles the wastewater.


Thongchai emphasised that SSI uses an advanced treatment system for wastewater, and after treatment it is released into a holding pond. Before it can overflow to the outside area, the quality of the treated water meets all government standards.


But when former staff of SSI and its subsidiaries who oppose the new smelting project learned about the "zero discharge" claim, they laughed in amusement. "Zero discharge? The company can say anything, but we know what they are doing," said one.


Many locals say the water quality of the Mae Rampueng canal has steadily declined in recent years. "It gives me an allergy," said Yod.


A decrease in the number of natural fish, as well as changes in the colour and level of the canal water, have also been observed.




Experiences such as the fish die-off have alerted many locals that they can no longer sit still and allow development to go unmonitored in Prachuap Khiri Khan province. In particular, they are looking very closely at the proposed new SGC smelting project adjacent to the SSI plant. They are alarmed by the possible hazards of a smelting operation in their backyard, such as from the 366,455 tonnes of dust a year that would be generated, according to an environmental impact assessment (EIA) commissioned by SGC. In May, the EIA was withdrawn from submission to the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning to allow a review of the land use, environmental and social issues.


As well as the large amount of dust, there are also a number of potentially harmful pollutants that could be emitted into the air or discharged into water sources by a smelting operation.


SGC has repeatedly assured that the company will install the best and most modern system available in the proposed new plant to control and monitor environmental hazards. Many locals say such promises are easy to make but much harder to implement.


The locals at Mae Rampueng have learned how people who work and live near Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate in Rayong province, as well as Lamphun industrial estates in Lamphun province, have been suffering from pollution-related illnesses, said Supoj Songsieng, the leader of the opposition group in Mae Rampueng.


"State officials and most staff of the companies will say there are no health risks related to the operations of these industries, as they have all best prevention systems and they have done everything up to the standard. But our question is: why has people's health deteriorated? There is no doctor who dares to say that their sickness is related to the operation of the industries," Supoj lamented.


People in the area around SSI also note the rise of iron levels in the artesian wells in many villages. For example, in a report of the Department of Groundwater Resources in 1997, the iron level of artesian well number TL0240, at Na Pak Kuang village in Mae Rampueng sub-district, was recorded at 0.41 ppm, but in Sahaviriya's own EIA, citing a later study by the department, in 2001 the iron level had gone up to 14 ppm, far above the maximum acceptable level of one ppm. The well is 48 metres deep and it is hand-pumped.


When asked about this Thongchai said iron is a natural substance which could be found in any underground water.


Director Sudjai Wongchalee of the Groundwater Analysis Division said that he could not speculate on why there is a rise in iron levels unless his division tests the water again. "If nobody uses the well water, it (the increase in iron levels) could be due to the fact that it doesn't flow," he said.


In any case, a rise in iron levels is widespread in artesian wells in the area. In Raharn village's well number TL100, there was also a large increase, from 0.48 ppm in 1997 to 13 ppm, in 2001.


Certainly further investigation is needed to determine the cause of the hazardous iron levels, but many locals have already stopped using the water from artesian wells.


Another main concern about the proposed smelting operation is the 35 million cubic metres of water a year which will be pumped from Bang Saphan canal and stored in reservoirs near the plant. SGC's EIA states that it will pump water only seven months out of the year.


Thongchai said his company has already calculated that the diversion of this amount of water would not affect the locals. "There will be enough water to maintain water levels in the canal," he said.


But many local farmers in Nong Mongkol and Pong Prasart subdistricts said that even now the operations at SSI deprive them of water in the dry season.


Supoj, who once worked for SSI, noted that in coastal communities fresh water is very precious.


"I don't think that they will pump water only for seven months and in the rainy season. What will their staff do after seven months if the level in the reservoirs falls, or what will happen to the pumping machines when they don't operate for quite a while," he added.


As noted in the previous article in this series (see Perspective, 24 June, 2007), much of the opposition to the proposed smelting plant is because it lies within a wetland area. There are also concerns over the lease of forest reserve land and an old graveyard on the proposed site.

Source or related URL: