Speaking at yesterday’s hearing, marine ecosystem and resource management specialist Mr Wankiat Thubtimsaeng expressed his concern about the construction of the project in the public’s interest.
“The area of Ao Kung is a very ecological area. As it is located on the east coast of Phuket, the seagrass beds and coral reefs are complete. Shrimp farms have a complete marine ecosystem, and this is the livelihood of the villagers,” said Mr Wankiat.
“During the construction phase, mangroves and water quality will be affected. Sedimentation and sludge diffusion will occur from large ships regularly moving in and out of the bay when the marina starts to get used.
“This will affect the ecology of the area as mangroves, coral reefs and sea grass will all be lost, so this project’s plans must be clear if it is to continue. We must maintain ecological integrity for the benefit of the locals,” he added.
“Second is the management of marine waste. The Minister of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) is concerned and unclear about the measures that the consulting company has offered today.
“Wastewater from ships, the new buildings, future hotels that will come to the area. These are not explained in the presentation of Enrich Co Ltd Consultants. I still don’t understand what the project consists of,” he said.
“Sure, there will be a better economy in the community, but the economy is already good. The local community has to accept these changes. If this project were to develop, traffic and transportation aspects must be clear because entry and exit of ships and cars will have to increase. Traffic will be more crowded. Smaller lanes will be affected,” Mr Wankiat explained.
Head of the Ao Kung Bay Conservation Group Mr Pradit Puangket added,, “I do not agree with this project. Through past experience of marina projects in Phuket, we have lost all public access to space by privatisation.
“On Phuket’s west coast, locals have lost all land, and now on the east coast they have nearly lost all land. All that remains for local fishermen is the Ao Kung Bay area,” he said.
“In addition, there is the most rare red coral in Phuket found at Ao Kung Bay. There is currently not much left, only about one rai. Ao Kung Bay is a source of ecological learning for students and the general public.
“I want to keep this space for the public,” he added.
However the Project’s manager, Mr Prapot Sehlim argued that the project will give employment opportunities to locals, highlighting that the owner is a Phuket local and will encourage local employment.
“The project owner is a local of Phuket, from Ao Kung Bay. This is better than a foreigner as the implementation of this project will generate employment among the community.
“The company will provide training. In the past, owners have been foreigners and Thais from Bangkok, so villagers have no chance. But as this project is owned by a local, everyone knows one another and will support the local community,” he explained.
The environmental specialist at Enrich Consultant Co Ltd, Mr Kanok Kemnak, said, “We will process all comments from the meeting including from the assessment forms. The environmental report will be submitted to the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (IPP) for further consideration.
“It is expected that by the middle of next year, we have approval to carry out the project,” he said.
Enrich Consulting Co Ltd held yesterday’s public hearing with representatives from relevant government agencies and stakeholders of the project joining in.