Illegal land clearing in Phra Thong Island mangrove forest suspended
Thailand’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources has ordered an immediate halt to the clearing of mangrove forest on the island, in the southern province of Phang-nga, after it was discovered that the clearing operations had not been legally approved and encroaching on a forest reserve.
Forest clearing was recently raised by a student of the Faculty of Science at Thailand’s Prince of Songkhla University who, accompanied by a lecturer, conducted a survey of the mangrove forest to study plant species between April 4th and 10th.
On return from his field trip to Phra Thong Island, the student, Punnawis Onrthammarat, posted on Facebook that he was shocked by how many paper bark trees (Melaleuca leucadendra) had been dug up by a backhoe.
The student claimed that he had collected soil samples on the island and found out that there is not a fresh water shortage and, therefore, there is no need for a huge water retention reservoir.
The department chief, Sophon Thongdee, said officials from the department will be sent to the area tomorrow (Thursday) to find out the extent of the encroachment on the mangrove forest and what kinds of trees and their numbers have been felled.
The Royal Irrigation Department plans to implement a water retention project on a 40-hectare plot of land on Phra Thong Island. The land clearing has, however, encroached on mangrove forest.
The forest is part of the national mangrove forest reserves of the Khura Buri district project, approved by the cabinet back in 2000.
Sophon insisted that the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources has never received a written request for the use of the land from any state agency, hence the land clearing is illegal.
Phra Thong Island is within the boundary of Mu Ko Ra-Ko Phra Thong Islands National Park.