11 July 2024

People in the southern provinces of Ranong and Chumphon are divided over the controversial land bridge project, with the business sector and most local community leaders in favour, while civic groups, coastal fishermen, durian and oil palm growers have expressed concerns over its potential environmental impacts.

The House Committee studying the project held public hearings in the two provinces yesterday and today, to gauge the views of all stakeholders.

In Chumphon province, people in Pa Toh district, where the project is to be sited, particularly coastal fishermen and those who have durian orchards and oil palm plantations, voiced concerns that construction activities, such as land reclamation to build a deep-sea port and oil piping, will impact marine species and plants, which will, in turn, affect their earnings.

Potential oil spills from the loading and offloading of crude at the sea port could threaten the environment and marine life, they pointed out.

During the hearing in Ranong this morning, the private sector and many community leaders voiced support for the project, hoping that it will stimulate the local economy and create more job opportunities in the province.

Civic groups are, however, afraid that the project will ruin the environment for good, citing activities such as land reclamation and sea bed dredging.

Panya Chupanich, director of the Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning Office, told participants at the meeting yesterdaythat the project will bring about a major transformation of communication in Thailand.

The cost is estimated at about one trillion baht and the bulk of that is expected to come from foreign investors, who will be granted the concession rights to operate the ports in Ranong and Chumphon for up to 99 years.

A flagship project of the government, the land bridge encompasses deep-sea ports on the western and eastern coasts of southern Thailand in Ranong and Chumphon, a dual-track railway, a motor way and an oil pipeline system to link the two ports.